WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, today reacted to a follow-up report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). The report, conducted at Chairman Akaka's request, found that while VA's case management for veterans suffering with TBI has improved, not all veterans with TBI are receiving needed long-term follow-up, and that many have significant unmet needs.
"While the VA is making progress, the IG investigation found again that VA is not providing the necessary standard of support and assistance to traumatically brain-injured veterans," said Akaka. "As the Inspector General found in this and previous reports, the current level of support VA provides leaves too many veterans who suffering from TBI with serious unmet needs."
Akaka added, "I am particularly concerned to learn that, despite earlier assurances to the contrary, VA still is not providing vital long-term case management to all traumatically brain-injured veterans." In response to the IG's previous investigation on veterans with TBI in 2006, VA's then-Under Secretary for Health stated that long-term case management services would be provided for seriously injured patients, including those with TBI.
The IG's report outlined findings from follow-up interviews with 52 of the veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom described in the 2006 report. The report found the following:
TBI is often referred to as the "signature wound" of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. A recent RAND study found that 19 percent returning veterans, or nearly one in five, experience possible TBI. While TBI can be severely debilitating and cause long lasting emotional and behavioral difficulties, it is not necessarily "visible" like other serious injuries.
Under Akaka's chairmanship, the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs has focused intently on TBI and its effects on veterans and their families. Provisions from a bill Akaka authored on improving TBI care for veterans were incorporated into the Wounded Warrior provisions within the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act. On March 11, 2008, Akaka chaired a hearing on care for the families of wounded warriors. Testimony was presented by the families of veterans suffering from brain injury and mental health issues related to military service.