The government plans to substantially increase disability benefits for veterans with mild traumatic brain injuries, acknowledging for the first time that veterans suffering from this less severe version of the Iraq war's signature wound will struggle to make a living.
"We're saying it's real," said Tom Pamperin, a deputy director for the Department of Veteran Affairs, about the significance of the change to benefits in the regulation the VA plans to publish today.
Up to 320,000 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered traumatic brain injury, a RAND Corp. study estimated this year. The vast majority of the cases are mild and came from exposure to an explosion, often from a roadside bomb. Most veterans with mild cases recover, Pamperin said, but some are left with permanent problems.
Compensation could reach $600 a month, the VA said. Currently, veterans with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears and irritability and insomnia collect $117.
More than 1.6 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. About half of those are now veterans, and slightly less than half of those veterans have sought health care from the VA (my em), records show. In the past year, the department has screened 190,000 of these veterans for brain injury. About 20% showed signs of a brain injury, but only about 5% were confirmed as suffering the wound.
The regulation modifies a 1961 rating schedule for mild brain trauma and brings compensation for this ailment into the 21st Century, said Lonnie Bristow, chairman of an Institute of Medicine committee that studied veterans' benefits.
The old regulation failed to recognize that wounds such as brain injuries from blasts — which do not show up on scans — are only understood by what patients say they are suffering, Bristow said.
"VA has been assessing their injuries based on outdated science," said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.
I'm glad the VA has updated their science. Getting yer brain scrambled from an IED is a little different than getting thrown off a horse during a cavalry charge. No hoofprints to prove injury.
Every little bit helps.
I would much rather see our tax money go to help the Vets injured in the service of Wall Street than to the CEOs who had Bush send them to an unnecessary war.