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VA Simplifies Brain Injury Claims Process

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Department of Veteran Affairs has simplified the health claims process for veterans, by recognizing the link between five diagnosable illnesses and traumatic brain injury (TBI), the agency has announced.

The illnesses include Parkinson's disease, unprovoked seizures, dementia, depression and hormone deficiency caused by hypothalamo-pituitary changes. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland together form a major part of the neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress and regulates bodily function including digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions.

Veterans were previously required to seek out medical opinions and other related evidence on a case-by-case basis, to determine if their illnesses were connected to service-related TBI.

Now, "if a veteran who has a service connected TBI also has one of these diagnosable illnesses, then that illness will be considered service connected as secondary to the TBI," the agency said in its action.

The VA bases the association between specific illnesses and TBI on an Institute of Medicine report titled "Gulf War and Health, Volume 7: Long-Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury."

The report provides "strong" evidence of the association, as "studies show that those conditions occur more frequently in persons who have suffered TBI than in other populations," according to the action.

The VA said the regulation eliminates the need for case-specific review, making the claims process more efficient and easier for veterans to establish service connection for their illnesses.

The regulation is effective Jan. 16, 2014.

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