Veterans Affairs and Traumatic Brain Injury

Veterans Affairs and Traumatic Brain InjuryLong term effects for traumatic brain injury in U.S. veterans, recent VA investigation into misused funds.

On July 29th, 2010, the office of US Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) issued a press release announcing that both he and US Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) have requested the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide a full accounting of how $6.3 million originally destined for the research and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in US veterans has been spent. The VA was expected to provide the Congressional office with a response by August 9, 2010, but so far, there is no word from that administration.

Traumatic brain injury is one of the most common medical conditions faced by returning Iraq and Afghanistan combat vets. These injuries are dangerous and their damaging effects can be long lasting, sometimes permanent. A recent study published in the medical journal Neurology found that 13% of a group of Vietnam War veterans developed epilepsy because of TBI that occurred decades ago.

The findings in the Vietnam veterans study are troubling. They show the long lasting effects of TBI can be serious, even decades after the initial injury. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of U.S. troops exposed to combat in Afghanistan and Iraq since October 2001 may have sustained concussions from IED attacks.

The group of Vietnam veterans studied suffered penetrating brain injuries. However, U.S. combat veterans returning from the Middle East today are more likely to suffer closed head injuries instead of penetrating ones. Concussions from IED and roadside bomb attacks don’t leave obvious signs of concussion or TBI, letting the problem go unnoticed and untreated too often.

The news about the congressional investigation is concerning. The $6.3 million was initially set aside in 2004 to fund an imaging center dedicated to the research of TBI and its connection with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The imaging center opened in 2006 at the University of Texas in Austin, but it wasn’t until 2007 that a director arrived to manage the center. Dr. Robert Van Boven arrived at the new Brain Imaging and Recovery Laboratory and quickly questioned how $2 million had been spent prior to his arrival. According to Dr. Van Boven, some of the $2 million was used to fund unrelated research.

Dr. Van Boven’s observations prompted an investigation by the Veterans Administration’s Office of Inspector General. The investigation revealed that none of the $6.3 million has been used for clinical services or treatment of veterans who suffered TBI. Dr. Van Boven was eventually terminated by the VA.

This apparent removal of a whistleblower by the VA is sadly not a new occurrence. Anna Chacko, a VA radiologist was removed from her post in Pittsburgh after she raised questions regarding how funds were being spent at her VA medical center.

If you or someone you love suffered from serious consequences because of TBI, contact our office for a free analysis of your case. You may be eligible for compensation for your injuries.