Armed Forces News

Some service members and veterans who sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI) may not be able to qualify for benefits and treatment, because their commands did not track such incidents properly.

The affected service members were attached to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) when their injuries occurred, according to a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General (IG). The command did not track potentially concussive events (PCEs) – blasts, collisions or direct blows to the head that may affect mental and body functions – the report concluded. PCEs have been linked to traumatic brain injury.

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The IG report cited statistics provided by the Defense Department’s TBI Center of Excellence showing that nearly 414,000 service members have been diagnosed with the malady as a direct result of training or combat.

It also noted that Pentagon leadership did not monitor CENTCOM’s compliance with regulations that require monitoring of TBI-related events. Because of the shortfall, the Pentagon “cannot ensure actionable TBI analysis is conducted.”

The Joint Trauma Analysis and Prevention of Injury in Combat (JTAPIC) program office does not have enough PCE and TBI data to provide DoD with the information needed to prevent, mitigate or resolve TBIs for deployed service members, the IG concluded. The program office also may not be able to verify which service members are TBI victims, or determine if those who did sustain such injuries have been diagnosed and treated properly as well.

“Without consistent and adequate information in PCEs, service members may not be eligible to receive disability benefits or care associated with PCE from the Department of Veterans Affairs after separating from the military,” the IG report stated.

The IG offered these recommendations:

•      Both the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and CENTCOM should appoint offices solely responsible for compliance with the DoD regulation regarding traumatic brain injury.
•      CENTCOM should be required to submit monthly reports that track PCE events, and monitor how each service complies with reporting requirements.
•      Reports should include specific details.