A traumatic brain injury or TBI is a low or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. When the brain is injured, the veteran may experience a change of consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused to slipping into a coma. The veteran may also have memory loss for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury.
Damage to the brain can be difficult to detect. Diffused injuries can cause an insufficient blood supply to the brain whereas localized damage can lead to bruising of the brain or hemorrhaging. Veterans suffering from TBI are likely to deal with physical and/or psychological damage as a result of head trauma.
When a traumatic brain injury occurs, it can be considered a mild, moderate or severe and penetrating case depending on the related effects. These effects can manifest three separate ways – effects that impact the body, mind, or the way a veteran behaves:
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Hearing loss
- Loss of sense of touch
- Loss of inhibitions or emotions
- Mood swings
- Inability to concentrate
- Memory loss
Lack of judgment
- Communication issues
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Increased restlessness, confusion, or agitation
According to the Brain Trauma Foundation, about 10 to 20 percent of Iraq veterans have some level of TBI, and among wounded troops the rate of TBI increases to 33 percent. The rate of traumatic brain injury is highest in the Army with nearly 20,000 cases reported in 2011 alone. The majority of those cases were considered to be mild to moderate.
What Causes TBI?
Even though a brain injury could occur on the battlefield, there are a number of other ways a veteran may suffer a TBI. Common causes of TBI include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
- Physical combat
- Sports accidents
The VA can provide a TBI screening for veterans who believe that may have suffered a TBI. Veterans who have been involved in an explosion, vehicular accident or fall are especially advised to get screened for this type of TBI. IN TBU cases, early detection is especially critical for proper treatment.
VA Disability for TBI
Recently the VA has been criticized for diminishing the effects on TBI on veterans, and not awarding sufficient compensation and/or benefits to the veterans suffering from this condition. As a result, the VA has passed a regulation to help more veterans with service-connected TBI qualify for benefits. If a veteran can prove the following conditions are the result of a service-connected TBI, then the veteran will eligible for additional compensation through presumptive service connection for the following conditions, in addition to the TBI itself:
- Parkinson’s disease (following moderate or severe TBI)
- Unprovoked Seizures (following moderate or severe TBI)
- Certain forms of dementia (following moderate or severe TBI and manifesting within a certain time period)
- Depression (manifesting within certain time periods)
- Hormone deficiency (following moderate or severe TBI and manifesting within certain time periods)
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