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VA Expands Traumatic Brain Injury Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 16, 2013) Starting January 16, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs is enforcing new regulations that will make it easier for veterans to receive additional health care and compensation for dementia, depression, Parkinsonism, unprovoked seizures, and hormone deficiency disorders related to the hypothalamus, pituitary or adrenal glands.

All of the above ailments have been linked to traumatic brain injuries in veterans.

According to the Department of Defense, more than 280,000 service members and veterans have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, since 2000.

The new regulations would open the door for thousands of veterans to file claims.

Traumatic brain injuries have plagued vets not just in combat, but also when they’re not deployed, examples can be seen when vets become injured in vehicle crashes, training, or while playing sports.

Past VA rules say vets must submit medical proof linking Parkinsonism, dementia, depression, seizures or hormone deficiency disorders to their service-connected TBI.

The new regulations, which have been printed in the Federal Register, say if certain vets with service-connected TBI also have one of the five illnesses, then the second illness will also be considered as service connected for the calculation of VA disability compensation.

There are some restrictions on eligibility, however. A press release describing the new regulations says “eligibility for expanded benefits will depend upon the severity of the TBI and the time between the injury causing the TBI and the onset of the second illness.”

Still McLennan County Veterans Services Officer Steve Hernandez, who represents and aids approximately 19,000 vets in the county, says the new regulations are a win.

"It definitely makes me feel that the VA is actually making their attempt to recognize these injuries as something that is going to be life-long,” Hernandez said.

However, Hernandez did add that the new regulations could add a new backlog to current VA claims.

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