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VA Expands Disability Coverage to Illnesses Related to Brain Injury

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By Hook Law Center

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced that some veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and certain related illnesses will be eligible for additional disability benefits.

The new regulation takes effect on January 15, 2014. It will affect some veterans with TBI who are also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, depression, certain diseases of the pituitary and hypothalamus glands, certain types of dementia or unprovoked seizures.

For certain veterans with service-related TBI who also suffer from one of the named illnesses, the second illness will also be considered as service-related for purposes of disability compensation.

The rule change was prompted by a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences linking moderate to severe TBI with the listed ailments.

Eligibility for additional compensation will depend on the severity of the brain injury and the length of time between the injury and the onset of the second illness. Veterans who do not meet eligibility requirements may still file a claim to establish the ailment as service-related.

“We decide veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available,” Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in the announcement. “As scientific knowledge advances, VA will expand its programs to ensure veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”

Current treatment for TBI is usually limited to mitigating the damage it causes in the short term following the injury. Extensive further study is needed to better understand TBI and its connection with various neurological disorders. In the meantime, the VA is helping many deserving veterans by compensating for TBI-related illnesses.

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Posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014. Filed under Veterans' Benefits.