Thousands of Vets May Have Been Diagnosed With Brain Injuries They Don’t Have
Policy + Politics

Thousands of Vets May Have Been Diagnosed With Brain Injuries They Don’t Have

REUTERS/Larry Downing

Thousands of veterans, many of whom served in Afghanistan and Iraq, were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) by medical personnel at Veterans Affairs hospitals who were unqualified to make such judgments, according to Military Times.

And an investigation by a Minnesota TV station discovered that more than 300 vets at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, some of whom were denied benefits, were examined for TBI by doctors who did not have the proper credentials.

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The investigation by KARE11News in Minneapolis said only one out of 21 medical personnel who conducted examinations at the local VA hospital was qualified to do so.

At a hearing on Wednesday by the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee, Chairman Ralph Abraham (R-LA), a physician, called TBI the “signature injury” from Afghanistan and Iraq.

But David McLenachen, deputy under secretary for disability assistance at the VA, testified that between 2007 and 2015 about 24,000 vets were examined for TBI by VA personnel and contractors who did not meet the department’s requirements. He said they would be re-examined.

Since 2000, more than 325,000 troops have been diagnosed with TBI. Of those, 170,000 applied for benefits but only 75,000 disability claims have been approved, subcommittee ranking member Dina Titus (D-NV) said. She asked why there is this “great gap,” and Abraham suggested that some vets “with meritorious claims” may have been denied benefits.

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“Committee staff has been trying to get to the bottom of what happened and who is responsible, but even after four separate briefings, the answers are not clear," Abraham, said. "The only issue that is clear to me is that the VBA [Veterans Benefits Administration] and VHA [Veterans Health Administration] created a royal mess by not communicating with each other ... and that senior VA employees once again failed to hold subordinates accountable.”

Titus did point out that the VA has taken the lead in treatment of TBI and will spend $2.2 billion over the next 10 years on treatment and research.