Veterans

Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs

Within military service there are three typical causes of TBI:

  1. Blunt force trauma;

  2. Concussive blast; 

  3. Violent change in air pressure.

Veteran Affairs Response to TBI

Due to the high incidence of TBI in the military field, Veteran Affairs (VA) and other sectors of the US military health system have become active in addressing the issues surrounding TBI.

Active duty and reserve service members are at an increased risk of sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian peers. This is a result of several factors, including the specific demographics of the military; in general, young men between the ages of 18 to 24 are at the greatest risk for TBI. This is coupled with an increased risk of being deployed to areas where they are at risk for experiencing blast exposures and the potential danger of even the most common operational and training activities which are common in the military.

research conducted by the Defense and Veterans Brain Center (DVBIC) in 2005 found that blasts in combination with other mechanisms are a leading cause of TBI for active duty military personnel in war zones.

The DVBIC also found that service members with previous TBI's had more symptoms in the first three months after a subsequent injury, compared to those with their first TBI, highlighting the significance and implications for treatment, of multiple TBI's.

VA has implemented an integrated nationwide system of care for Veterans and active duty service members recovering from TBI and polytrauma. This system is designed to provide care for persons with TBI as an isolated condition or in the context of polytrauma or other comorbidities. It consists of more than 100 VA medical centers; each offering specialized rehabilitation care by an interdisciplinary team.

Various steps have been taken to improve identification and treatment;

  • In 2007, VA initiated a TBI screening for all Veterans

  • Veterans with a positive TBI screen are referred for a comprehensive evaluation with specialty providers who determine a definitive diagnosis.

  • An individualized Rehabilitation and Reintegration Treatment Plan of Care is developed for those Veterans that need ongoing rehabilitation services.

In late 2012 the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense announced they were investing more than $100 million in research to improve diagnosis and treatment of mild TBI and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Not all TBIs involve action on the front lines. Many undiagnosed survivors served in units that had little exposure to direct combat related actions. If you were exposed to any of the  events listed above during your military service and are experiencing some of the common TBI signs and symptoms, please schedule an evaluation. U.S.

  • Puget Sound VA Healthcare System;  800-329-8387

  • Walla Walla;  888-687-8863

  • Vancouver;  800-949-1004

  • Spokane;  800-325-7940

Signs and Symptoms

TBIs affect people in many different ways.  This list presents some of the more common signs and symptoms. If you feel that you may have experienced a TBI at any time during your service, contact your nearest U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.Cognitive Symptoms

Concentration problems

Attention difficulties

Memory problems 

Behavioral Symptoms 

Headaches  

Dizziness

Loss of initiative

Anxiety

Irritability 

Fatigue

Insomnia

Depression

Many of these symptoms also coincide with Post-Traumatic Stress. Only a trained professional can properly diagnose TBI and PTSD.

TBI Evaluation

TBI survivors may be entitled to certain benefits at both the state and federal levels. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act allows many individuals with a diagnosed TBI to receive assistance in their home, at work, or even at school.

Here are some things to consider:

Step 1: Self evaluate.

Think about your possible exposures and any signs or symptoms that you may be experiencing.  Write them down and be prepared to share them during your evaluation.

Step 2:  Set an appointment with the VA.

Call the toll-free number of your nearest U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and tell them you are interested in speaking with someone about TBI.  Bring your notes in Step 1 to your appointment.

Step 3: Be patient.

The VA process can seem a little daunting at times; but nothing will come out of it if you simply choose to stop going.  During your appointments trained staff members will help you discover if you have experienced a TBI and work with on a strategy that will set you up for success.  

Contact WDVA's Certified Brain Injury Specialist - Scott Bloom at scottb@dva.wa.gov or 360-725-2239.