The American Legion’s Deputy Director of Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Roscoe Butler testified during a congressional hearing yesterday. He addressed pending legislation regarding traumatic brain injury (TBI) evaluations for compensation and implementation of peer specialists at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers.
If passed into law, S. 244 would require VA to work with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a comprehensive review of VA examinations, ensuring TBI symptoms and subsequent levels of disability are accurately diagnosed for purposes of awarding disability compensation.
Recently, VA acknowledged that it may have under-evaluated nearly 25,000 veterans suffering from TBI. A June 2016 press release stated, “Veterans whose initial examination for TBI was not conducted by one of four designated medical specialists would be provided the opportunity to have their claims reprocessed.”
Butler reiterated how difficult TBI is to evaluate during his testimony. As a complex medical condition, the injury requires the expertise of specialized medical professionals to determine the level of severity and disability, he said. By resolution, The American Legion supports legislation that “encourages acceleration in the development and initiation of needed research on conditions that significantly affect veterans.”
Additional legislation would impact veterans who rely on VA health care, but experience barriers when accessing care, including those residing in rural areas. The Veteran Partners’ Efforts to Enhance Reintegration (PEER) Act, if enacted, would establish peer specialists and assign them to patient health care teams at designated VA medical centers.
“Peer specialists in the private sector have become an integral part of health care teams and are vital in promoting the recovery of patients,” Butler noted.
The American Legion supports the development of a national program providing peer to peer rehabilitation services tailored to meet the specialized needs of current generation and combat-affected veterans and their families.