Traumatic Brain Injury Often Overlooked

In an August 8, 2008, article entitled, “War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked”, The New York Times reported the following:

Former Staff Sgt. Kevin Owsley is not quite sure what rattled his brain in 2004: the roadside bomb that exploded about a yard from his Humvee or the rocket-propelled grenade that flung him across a road as he walked to a Porta Potti on base six weeks later.After each attack, he did what so many soldiers do in Iraq. He shrugged off his ailments – headaches, dizzy spells, persistent ringing in his ears and numbness in his right arm – chalking them up to fatigue or dehydration. Given that he never lost  consciousness, he figured the discomfort would work itself out and kept it  to himself.”You keep doing your job with your injuries,” said Mr. Owsley, 47, an Indiana reservist who served as a gunner for a year outside  Baghdad beginning in March 2004. “You don’t think about it.”But more than three years after coming home, Mr. Owsley’s days have been irrevocably a changed by the explosions. He struggles to unscramble his memory and  thoughts. He often gets lost on the road, even with directions. He writesall his appointments down but still forgets a few. He wears a hearing aid, cannot bear sunlight on his eyes, still succumbs to nightmares and considers four hours of sleep a night a gift.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Does this scenario sound familiar? This is what the Department of Veterans Affairs calls “traumatic brain injury” or TBI. Traumatic brain injuries are often overlooked by veterans themselves. There are several different categories through which a veteran who has TBI can get compensation from 0 to 100 percent (depending on the severity of the injury) for his or her injuries. Under 38 C.F.R. § 4.124(a) Evaluation of Cognitive Impairment and Other Residuals of TBI Not Otherwise Classified, the Code lists 10 different categories of signs and symptoms of TBI. The symptoms are ranked from 0 to 3 based on their degree of severity.

According to pbs.org, sources report between 115,000 to 400,000 soldiers have TBI, depending on the severity of the condition. The Times article indicated 33,000 of 227,015 soldiers, about 15 percent, had screened positive for mild brain injury from April 2007 to August 2008.

Often times the cause of TBI stems from being subjected to the explosion of an IED or other explosive device. It can also be caused by a hard hit to the head. Some symptoms include impaired judgment, impaired memory, heightened sensitivity to light, getting lost easily when it was not problematic before and inappropriate social interactions.

Veteran’s who have come back from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan and have some or all of these symptoms should consider whether or not they suffer from TBI, and whether or not they may qualify for VA benefits. Mr. Owsley did, and he ended up getting a monthly check for $2,711 from the VA for his disabilities.