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War Veterans Gain from New Rules on Brain Injuries

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by Romanucci & Blandin

 Thousands of veterans who have illnesses linked to traumatic brain injury may soon be eligible for better health care, and importantly, compensation, thanks to new regulations recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

According to the Federal Register, Parkinson’s, unprovoked seizures, certain dementias, depression and hormone deficiency diseases related to the hypothalamus, pituitary or adrenal glands will be eligible for the broadened benefits.

While many veterans are gratified at this news, it’s too soon to celebrate because the regulations must first undergo a 60-day public comment period. And, the Veterans Benefits Administration would be faced with tens of thousands of veterans filing claims, which would prove daunting.

As reported in the New York Times: since 2000, more than 250,000 service members, some still on active duty, have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, or T.B.I. Although the illness is thought to result from blasts, most of the injuries happened to troops involved in vehicle crashes, training accidents or sports-related injuries.

For its part, the DVA counts a smaller number, 51,000, who currently receive benefits for service-connected traumatic brain injuries. But, it admits thousands more troops with T.B.I. may be eligible for the eased benefits.

In a compassionate move, veterans of prior wars will also be eligible but first must prove a traumatic brain injury was connected to their military service. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Department has tossed in some significant restrictions on eligibility: veterans with the identified diseases will qualify only if their traumatic brain injury was moderate or severe.

The Institute of Medicine defines a mild traumatic brain injury as a loss of consciousness or memory lasting less than 30 minutes, while severe T.B.I. would last more than 24 hours.

Throwing in another wrench, and criticized by veterans’ groups, is the news that the proposed regulations are saddled with time restrictions: “Dementias must become apparent within 15 years of a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury. Hormone deficiency diseases must manifest themselves within one year of a moderate or severe brain injury. And depression must become evident within three years of a moderate or severe brain injury or within one year of a mild one.”

Unfortunately, the DVA claims they have no plans to hire extra personnel to handle the new regulations because they don’t expect the number of additional claims to be very large.

Wishful, but deluded, thinking on their part?

Published by the Chicago personal injury attorneys at Romanucci & Blandin

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