Thursday, December 19, 2013

New Policies For Vets With TBI

A new Veterans Administration (VA) Policy is set to go into effect January 2014 that will affect Military Veterans who may have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to military service. This affects veterans, both Texas National Guardsmen and Active & Reserve US Military personnel.

The new policy is meant to make screenings for possible TBIs more accessible to veterans. It is also intended to make other ailments automatically service-connected if the veteran if found to have sustained a TBI. Among those ailments are Parkinson's Disease, Dementia, Depression, Seizures, and many other conditions connected to the Hypothalamus or Pituitary Gland.

Many of those conditions listed were previously considered non-service-connected, possibly even "pre-existing but latent" or "previously undiagnosed". That meant the VA would not cover them within the scope of service-connected disabilities. Now, if a veteran or military retiree is found to have suffered a TBI, even an MTBI (mild injury, such as a mild concussion), the conditions are eligible for disabled veterans benefits.

MTBI can seem as minor as just "having your bell rung" during an IED incident or getting bounced around the inside of a military vehicle due to combat maneuvers. Even the protective combat helmets are not 100% effective protection against these. They may mitigate what would have been a severe injury, lessening the effects to a mild "bell ringing". However, many soldiers in sector never sought medical attention. The immediate effects can wear off in seconds. However, the resulting brain damage and related symptoms sometimes do not manifest for months. They can include depression, aphasia, short-term memory problems, unexplained mood swings, appetite loss, uncontrolled binge activity such as eating or drinking, fugue, and unexplained headaches. Many of the symptoms of even an MTBI can be easily mistaken for PTSD. If coupled with Post-Combat Stress (misnamed "PTSD"), they can go undiagnosed or mistreated. 

If you or a loved one who saw combat experiences even the mildest of any of these or the other related symptoms, a screening is important. You have the right to refuse one, yes. However, there are treatments available and benefits that can help you take care of your family. These are not hand-outs, but part of what we earned fighting to support and defend our Constitution and our way of life.

The Defense and Veterans' Brain Injury Center has great information relating to TBI and how you can help somebody you know who may be suffering from one. 

The federal and state TBI policies through the respective VAs as well as the Texas Governor's Committee on Persons with Disabilites are ready to assist, according to Governor Rick Perry.

For more information on TBI and the screening process, go to this site run by the VA. It has a great overview as well as links to more detailed information.

The Legal Side of TBI

Leticia Van De Putte, running for LT. Gov, sponsored a "comprehensive" military and veterans bill during the 83rd Legislative Session. The bill garnered bipartisan support. Rick Perry signed it into law. The law itself appears vital to Texas military (including National Guard and State Militia), ensuring that military and veterans receive the full benefits due them.

Within the law,(SB 1536) there is this section relating directly to TBI and Post-Combat Stress (mislabeled at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD in the bill).

Sec. 437.216.  SERVICE REFERRAL PROGRAM. (a)  The Texas military forces shall develop a program to provide referrals to service members for reintegration services. 
       (b)  The program shall: 
             (8)  be developed and administered in a manner that promotes collaboration of service providers and results in the referral of service members, their children, and other family members to the appropriate federal, state, and community services for which they are eligible; and
             (9)  provide information and referral services regarding the risks and consequences of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other conditions for which service members are at risk.
       (c)  The Texas military forces shall ensure that:
             (1)  each person who provides referrals to service members under the referral program has received sufficient training to ensure that service members receive accurate information; and
             (2)  service members are notified in a timely manner about the service referral program.
       (d)  In developing the referral program, the Texas military forces shall consult with the National Guard Bureau, the United States Veterans Health Administration, the Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

That appears all well and good. However, there are also efforts to deprive any veteran suspected of or diagnosed with PCS/PTSD, MTBI, or TBI from their constitutional rights. By federal policy, these veterans may be deprived of their Second Amendment protections without a court order, without a trial, and without cause or necessity being proven.

In addition, many seek to label those with TBI, MTBI, PCS, or PTSD as mentally, morally, and intellectually compromised or incompetent. That could mean that, without a court order, some government bureaucrat may decide a veteran is not capable of handling his or her own finances, medical decisions, etc. In essence, their possessions, finances, etc. are forced into some form of conservator program where the veteran is forced to ask permission for access to his or her own stuff. This is even if a veteran has broken no laws and never been a danger to himself or others (since separation from the military, of course, because we would hope a soldier would have been a danger to the evils that threaten our country while the soldier was still on duty).

Other dangers include stripping away the veteran's right to refusal of medications or treatments. Some of the TBI, MTBI, PCS/PTSD treatments and medications intended to alleviate symptoms have bad side effects that are worse than the symptoms and conditions themselves. In addition, they can have aggravated side effects when coupled with methoquinine toxicity. Meth-Q toxicity results from the preventive medications some soldiers received prior to and during deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Some of the symptoms of Meth-Q toxicity are similar to those of TBI, MTBI, and PCS/PTSD. The VA does not recognize Meth-Q toxicity just like it did not recognize "agent orange" poisoning for Vietnam veterans for decades. The VA did not recognize "Gulf War Syndrome" for almost 20 years either.

Yet, veterans can be forced to take these treatments "for their own good", and end up worse than without them. This can include fainting spells from a body's inability to retain potassium (or sweating it all out during night sweats). They can include vitamin D deficiencies due to the body's refusal to retain Vitamin D or irregularities in how it processes it to Vitamin-K. The vitamin D issues can aggravate depression and can cause unexplained joint flare-ups that resemble gout. Furthermore, they can manifest as damage to the thyroid gland.

So veterans need to be aware of what benefits they have earned. They need to seek out those benefits. However, they do need to be wary of the Trojan Horse that may unethically and immorally accompany them.