Some Veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI), who are diagnosed with any one of five other ailments, will have an easier path to receive additional disability pay under new regulations developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The new regulation, which took effect January 16, impacts some Veterans living with TBI who also have Parkinson’s disease, certain types of dementia, depression, unprovoked seizures or certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.
“We decide Veterans’ disability claims based on the best science available,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “As scientific knowledge advances, VA will expand its programs to ensure Veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve.”
This regulation stems from a report of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine (IOM) regarding the association between TBI and the five diagnosable illnesses. The IOM report, Gulf War and Health, Volume 7: Long-Term Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury, found “sufficient evidence” to link moderate or severe levels of TBI with the five ailments.
The new regulations, printed in the Federal Register, say that if certain Veterans with service-connected TBI also have one of the five illnesses, then the second illness will also be considered as service connected for the calculation of VA disability compensation. Eligibility for expanded benefits will depend upon the severity of the TBI and the time between the injury causing the TBI and the onset of the second illness. However, Veterans can still file a claim to establish direct service-connection for these ailments even if they do not meet the time and severity standards in the new regulation.
Veterans who have questions or who wish to file new disability claims may use the eBenefits website, available at www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits.
Service members who are within 180 days of discharge may also file a pre-discharge claim for TBI online through the VA-DoD eBenefits portal at www.eBenefits.va.gov/ebenefits. These are the other conditions which qualify a vet for special consideration:
1. Parkinson’s disease
2. Certain types of dementia
4. Unprovoked seizures
5. Certain diseases of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These glands regulate weight, appetite, sleep, emotions and other critical body functions.
The new rule establishes that if a veteran with moderate or severe service-connected TBI is also diagnosed with one of these illnesses, then that illness will be considered service-connected, absent clear evidence to the contrary.This allows the VA to grant service connection for these secondary conditions without spending time and resources on medical development and opinions. People who qualify for Veterans benefits may also be concurrently eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The standards are similar but not identical.