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VA to expand benefits for traumatic brain injury

SUN Columnist

Some veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who are diagnosed with any of five other ailments will have an easier path to receive additional disability pay under new regulations developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new regulation, which takes effect this month, impacts some veterans living with TBI who also have Parkinson’s disease, certain types of dementia, depression, unprovoked seizures or certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

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

This regulation stems from a report of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM) regarding the association between TBI and the five diagnosable illnesses.  The IOM report, Gulf War and Health, Volume 7:  Long-Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury, found “sufficient evidence” to link moderate or severe levels of TBI with the five ailments.

The new regulations, printed in the Federal Register, say that if certain veterans 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.

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.  However, veterans can still file a claim to establish direct service connection for these ailments even if they do not meet the time and severity standards in the new regulation.

Service members who are within 180 days of discharge may also file a pre-discharge claim for TBI online through the VA-DoD eBenefits portal at www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits.

The published final rule became available Dec. 17 at http://www.regulations.gov.

Information about VA and DoD programs for brain injury and related research is available at www.dvbic.org.

Information about VA’s programs for Gulf War veterans is available at www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/gulfwar/hazardous_exposures.asp.

Further information

For further Information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

I will be out of the office on the following days for regularly scheduled meetings:

• Vets4Vets: Tuesday mornings, 9 a.m.-noon.

• Arboles Community Center, first and third Thursdays. Back around 2p.m.

• Pagosa Outreach Connection, 8:30-10 a.m. every Thursday.

• Home visits/Pine Ridge outreach, second and fourth Thursdays, back at 2 p.m.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590, and e-mail is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for completing applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to, and a copy for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. If the office is closed, I am out assisting veterans; leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

The following veterans groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Quality Resort.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: Every other Monday, 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte: 731-1025.

• Point Man Ministries’ Breakfast for Veterans, 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday at Buffalo Inn, 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Vincent:  (435) 618-0049, Vfortunato777@gmail.com.

Important numbers

• (970) 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

• Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

• The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on January 2, 2014.