Legion attends TBI, PTSD hearing

Jacob Gadd, The American Legion Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division’s deputy director for Health Care, recently attended a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on “Innovative Treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” Representatives from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and other entities discussed new technologies, research and treatment for TBI and PTSD.

Some of the participants included Paul Harch, board certified hyperbaric and emergency medicine physician; Armando Gonzalez, chief executive officer of Healthcare Solutions of North Carolina; Eugene Lipov, medical director, Advanced Pain Centers, S.C.; and other keynote speakers from Duke University Medical Center, Pikes Peak Behavioral Group, and Navy Medical Research and Development Center.

Some of the discussed solutions for treatment included hyperbaric oxygen, increased transportation and accessibility of care, virtual exposure therapy and social media, improved classifying and diagnosing of biomarkers through blood testing, and recent peer-reviewed studies on use of morphine after exposure to a traumatic blast.

House Veterans Affairs Chairman, Bob Filner, D-Calif., said that as of 2009, 1,490,540 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have returned and are eligible for care at the VA. Of those, 20 percent have TBI and 50 percent have PTSD. Filner understands there are innovative treatments for TBI and PTSD that DoD and VA have yet to adopt. He added that DoD and VA have to balance new technologies and solutions with patient safety, and that the federal agencies, by design, are not set up for innovation.

Currently, DOD is utilizing several initiatives for recovery from TBI, such as cognitive rehabilitation, co-occurring conditions toolkit, altitude and effect on TBI, sleep disturbances and TBI, and other treatments. In addition, DoD has seven research studies currently being conducted on TBI. DoD also discussed different public awareness initiatives, such as the Real Warriors Campaign, SimCoach, Sesame Street, Resilience Pilot Project and the new National Intrepid Center of Excellence recently opened in Bethesda, Md. The American Legion partnered with the Real Warriors Campaign in June of 2010; the campaign is an effort by DoD to combat stigma associated with receiving care from DoD and VA. Representatives from the Real Warriors Campaign have provided toolkits for distribution at this year’s American Legion National Convention in Milwaukee and are slated to address the Washington Conference in 2011.

The American Legion has continued to advocate for improvements with DoD and VA in TBI and PTSD research, including screening, diagnosis and evidence-based treatments for these signature wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan. The VA&R Division will be hosting a TBI panel on August 28 during the national convention that will include representatives from DoD, VA and the private sector.