WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the Government Accountability Office's report on mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). The report detailed VA's recent efforts to implement a screening tool to identify veterans who may have mild TBI.
"I am pleased with VA's progress in their development of a screening tool for mild traumatic brain injury among returning veterans. GAO's report is encouraging and shows that VA has prioritized care of these veterans. While there has been criticism of VA's efforts to date, and though challenges remain, VA has begun a promising effort to screen at-risk veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan for mild TBI," stated Chairman Akaka.
Senator Akaka continued, "While VA is making progress, I am concerned that work remains to be done at the Defense Department. In the first Gulf War, DoD failed to keep adequate records of where servicemembers were deployed and what hazards they were exposed to. In the current conflicts, DoD is doing a poor job of tracking which servicemembers are exposed to improvised explosive devices, car bombs, and other blasts that may lead to mild TBI. It is not acceptable to leave injured servicememebers with the burden of recordkeeping, since even mild brain injuries can result in loss of memory, especially memory of the traumatic incident. The need for detailed information is critical, since the distance of a few meters of proximity to a blast can mean the difference between mild and severe TBI."
Senator Akaka added, "Unfortunately, there are no objective diagnostic measures to determine whether a veteran has suffered a mild TBI. This underscores the need for DoD to compliment VA's screening tool with better records of at-risk servicemembers. Addressing TBI will continue to be a top priority in my work as Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee."