The Veterans Affairs Department is publishing a proposed regulation in the Federal Register that would change its rules to add five diagnosable illnesses that are secondary to service-connected traumatic brain injury.
“We must always decide veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available and we will,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said. “Veterans who endure health problems deserve timely decisions based on solid evidence that ensure they receive benefits earned through their service to the country.”
VA proposes to add a new subsection to its adjudication regulation state that if a veteran who has a service-connected TBI also has one of the five illnesses, then the illness will be considered service-connected as secondary to the TBI. Service connection under the proposed rule depends in part upon the severity of the TBI -- mild, moderate, or severe -- and the period of time between the injury and onset of the secondary illness, officials said.
The proposed rule also clarifies that even if those time and severity standards are not met, it does not preclude a veteran from establishing direct-service connection. It also defines the terms mild, moderate, and severe, consistent with Defense Department.
Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted over the next 60 days, officials said, and a final regulation will be published after consideration of all comments received.
VA’s decision is based on a report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, in which the IOM's Committee on Gulf War and Health concluded that "sufficient evidence of a causal relationship" - the IOM's highest evidentiary standard - existed between moderate or severe levels of TBI and diagnosed unprovoked seizures, officials said.
The IOM found sufficient evidence of an association between moderate or severe levels of TBI and Parkinsonism; some dementias, depression and dseases of hormone deficiency that may result from hypothalamo-pituitary changes. The report also associated depression with mild TBI.