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Traumatic Brain Injury: “Signature Wound” of Recent Veterans

VA Health Care

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined by mild to severe dysfunction in the brain caused by an external mechanical force. Among civilians, TBI is most commonly caused by a fall, car accident or sports injury. Active duty service members are extra vulnerable to TBI through attacks by grenades, mortars, bullets, mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Among veterans who have served overseas in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), TBI has been labeled a “signature wound” because the incidence of TBI is higher in these conflicts compared to previous wars.

Among the 1.4 million OEF and OIF veterans who left active duty and became eligible for VA health care between 2002 and 2011 only 53 percent had accessed VA health care by the end of Fiscal Year 2011. A report released in January, 2013 indicated that VA health care had diagnosed, evaluated or treated 56,695 OEF/OIF veterans for a condition possibly related to TBI. It is not known exactly how many veterans are suffering from traumatic brain injury partly because 47 percent of eligible veterans have not signed up for VA health care.

Other factors contributing to unknown military TBI cases:

  • Difficulty in diagnosing because of overlapping symptoms with post traumatic stress disorder or mild injuries that don’t create obvious symptoms
  • Lack of reporting due to fear of impeding military career
  • Stigma

Why has traumatic brain Injury increased in recent conflicts?

There are three factors blamed for the increase in TBI among OEF and OIF veterans:

  1. Blast injuries from IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades and land mines have increased compared to previous conflicts. In fact, blast injuries are the number one type of injury experienced by OIF service members.
  2. Due to advances in combat medicine, air evacuation and protective equipment some injuries that would have been fatal in the past now result in injuries.
  3. Advancements in medicine have made health care professionals more aware of the signs and possibilities of TBI, which has led to more diagnoses.

VA policy on TBI

The VA requires any OEF/OIF veterans receiving medical care in the VA health care system to be screened for TBI.

  • Soldiers who screen positive for mild TBI must be offered a more in depth evaluation and treatment based on evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for treatment of mild TBI.
  • Service members who have recognizable injuries and who are diagnosed with moderate to severe TBI are entitled to immediate treatment, beginning at the site of the accident. Further care is administered at a military treatment facility. Once a patient is deemed stable they may remain at a military treatment facility or be transferred to the VA Polytrauma System of Care.

TBI increases the risk of developing epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. As a result, TBI has the potential to create a lifelong injury. If you or a family member is suffering from a traumatic brain injury, seek the help of a personal injury lawyer today.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.