VA expanding rules for brain injury benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking public comment on new regulations that would make it easier for veterans with certain illnesses related to traumatic brain injury (TBI) to qualify for health care and compensation.

The regulations link Parkinson’s, unprovoked seizures, certain types of dementia, depression, and hormone deficiency conditions related to the hypothalamus, pituitary, or adrenal glands to TBI, making veterans with these conditions eligible for expanded benefits.

Under current rules, veterans with these illnesses must provide medical evidence that the illness itself is the result of military service to qualify for benefits.

But the new rules could streamline the claims process for veterans able to prove that they suffered service-related TBI. Once that is established, the Department of Veterans Affairs will then accept without further evidence that the TBI caused these five illnesses.

The change in regulations could open the way for a flood of new claims. More than 250,000 service members have received diagnoses of TBI since 2000, according to the Defense Department.

Jim Stringham, Manistee County’s veterans administrator, says that veterans with service-related injuries typically wait 15 to 16 months for their claims to be processed by the VA. At the moment, the department has a backlog of about 950,000 claims.

However, the new rules include restrictions on eligibility. Veterans with Parkinson’s, unprovoked seizures, dementia, or a hormone deficiency condition would have to prove that they suffered moderate to severe TBI to qualify.

Dementia must manifest itself within 15 years and hormone deficiency conditions within one year of moderate or severe TBI for the veteran to qualify. Depression must appear within three years of a moderate or severe brain injury or within one year of a mild one.

 

 

 

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