Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – which has often been called the “signature wound” of Iraq and Afghanistan – may happen from a blow or jolt to the head or an object penetrating the brain. When the brain is injured, the person can experience a change in consciousness that can range from becoming disoriented and confused to slipping into a coma. The person might also have a loss of memory for the time immediately before or after the event that caused the injury. Not all injuries to the head result in a TBI.
TBI can cause various neurological outcomes and diseases and increases a veteran's risk for Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Both DoD and VA have acknowledged the lack of research on brain injuries and the difficulties of diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and TBI because of the co-morbidity of symptoms between the two.
It is essential that servicemembers and veterans are screened for TBI as early as possible, because the similarities between TBI and PTSD become more difficult to treat the longer the condition goes unscreened. To identify veterans who may have TBI, VA medical facilities have implemented a computer-based screening tool and require providers at VA medical facilities to use the tool to screen all veterans, including all OEF/OIF/OND who present for outpatient health care. This screening tool consists of a series of questions that VA providers are required to ask veterans, especially those from Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND), when seeking care at a VA medical facility.
To better understand the impact of TBI injuries, The American Legion convened a TBI and PTSD committee in 2010 “to investigate existing science and procedures and alternative methods for treating TBI and PTSD.” To obtain additional information about the committee and the work they are involved in, go to: http://www.legion.org/publications/217301/war-within-treatment-traumatic-brain-injury-and-post-traumatic-stress-disorder
The committee's continued advocacy for alternate treatment programs for TBI and PTSD can be found in "The Road Home," a special publication produced in 2018:
How to obtain help for TBI:
To obtain help for a TBI-related injury, you must apply for enrollment in the VA health-care system by completing and submitting a VA Form 10-10EZ Application for Health Benefits. You can apply either online at www.1010ez.med.va.gov, in person at your local VA medical center, or by telephone at (877) 222-VETS (8387), Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m., EST. Once enrolled, you will be provided a TBI screening evaluation, and if the results are positive you will be scheduled for additional treatment.
Department of Veterans Affairs: www.va.gov
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center: dvbic.dcoe.mil
Defense Centers of Excellence: www.dcoe.mil
VA Polytrauma/TBI National Coordinator: (804) 675-5597
VA OEF/OIF Assistance: www.oefoif.va.gov
Polytrauma Assistance: (888) 827-4824
Disclaimer: the information presented in The American Legion’s TBI website is for informational purposes only. This information does NOT constitute medical advice, and should NOT serve as the basis for any medical decision by you. Please consult with a physician or other medical professional should you have questions regarding information contained in this section of our website.