Is VA Research on Blast Exposure truly Behind the Times?

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VA Research like a Model T?

Plainly put, no. Despite what VA Disability Compensation folks try to tell you, research about brain injuries and blast exposure is light years ahead of where they claim. The irony is that the other half of VA is a leader in the field.

VA’s Disability Compensation adjudicators baffle me when they claim they still do not know a thing about head injuries. Questions about severity, causes and residual impacts still seem like big black hole to these people. But the reality is their ignorance is intentional. Meanwhile, in reality, VA Health Care researchers have blazed the trail further than you probably realize. Let me explain.

VA is like a monster with two heads that never talk to each other.

Imagine a tale of two VA buildings about half a mile apart. You can see one from the other. When it comes to brain science, one side of VA acts like we are still driving Ford Model T’s. The other is on the cutting edge of brain injury research.

One such VA is the Minneapolis VA system. VA Disability at Fort Snelling claims they do not know how a doctor can tell the difference between mild, moderate, and severe traumatic brain injures (TBI).

(That is a verifiable fact following a discussion with a Decision Review Officer I had last summer.)

The other building half a mile away has housed research at the heart of hundreds of scientific research papers on the impact of brain injuries in service. These papers include hundreds of explanations on detection of severity.

For veterans seeking information on TBI, you will not get that information from VA Benefits. They just do not want to admit no one drives Model T’s anymore no matter how much information is out there.

And when it comes to things like blast exposure, I used to think it was a mystery regarding how to know the impact on your brain. But wouldn’t you know VA and DoD spent millions to figure that out? And, when they did, they published numerous papers on the subject over the years.

So despite claims to the contrary, VA has advanced research on blast exposure, PTSD, and brain function after blast exposure. A recent report on the topic is titled The Effects of Explosive Blast as Compared to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder on Brain Function and Structure. Check it out if you are curious.

VA and DoD included a specific form through that research, too. It is called the Minnesota Blast Exposure Screening Tool (MN-BEST).  I found the form on the DTIC.mil website. Skip to the last page in the PDF attached here and you’ll find the form (page 97).

If you read the reports attached to it, you will learn all about how modern scientists determine problems caused by traumatic brain injuries and related conditions.

Primary researchers and investigators involved are from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis VHA, and Minnesota Veterans Research Institute. When you research brain issues, these three entities will pop up with regularity.

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12 Comments

  1. I AM GOING THROUGH ebp(Evidence-Based Psychotherapy), AND JUST YESTERDAY MY PSCHOLOGIST TRIED TO ASSURE ME THAT MY OPINIONS ABOUT THE VA COULD BE CAUSED BY THE “INFLUENCE” OF THIS WEBSITE. SHE HAS TRID TO PAINT THE “ALL OR NOTHING” TAG ON MY OPINIONS, BUT AS WE ALL KNOW, THERE IS A “GRAY” AREA WHERE MOST OF LIFE IS LIVED. SHE DOESN’T DENY THAT THIS COULD BE A “FACT”, THAT THE VA USES VETS THEN TOSSES THEM OUT LIKE TRASH”WHEN (WE BECOME UNUSABLE/DISABLED) WE NEED TREATMENT FOR MALADIES THAT THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR, BUT IN THE SAME BREATH SHE STATES THE VA DOES DO “SOMETHING” FOR THE DISABLED VETS . I AGREE, THE VERY “MINIMUM”.

    • Wait a second James. Do you seriously mean VA is actually targeting my website directly when discussing veterans’ concerns about their inept care? Or, do you mean VA is instead broadly targeting all websites that provide op-eds about VA malpractice?

  2. Here is the deal as I see it … the VA does some seriously atrocious crap to some Veterans and if you call them on it with facts and proof they get upset at us veterans but still do there job at the worker level. At the managerial level they get extremely upset for being called out on their irresponsible management and hide stuff and make things disappear at the expense of the veteran. At the political level what they do is so unbelievable that the public thinks we are all a bunch of psychos because if any public employee ever provided services like the VA sounds their companies wouldn’t exist or their jobs. So how do we deal with this situation without being looked at as a bunch of freaks trying to get benefits when we want to be percieved as veterans cashing in on benefits earned for services to our country? I have recently been slammed by a fellow veteran who seems to think I should be thankful for what the VA has given me and my opinion is the VA hasn’t given me anything that I haven’t earned and they owe me as a benefit for services to my country. In fact I’ve had to fight very hard with a lot of stress to get thus far. What do you folks think because this particular vet is being very troublesome in his opinion?

  3. I have been to the Dr. (VA) three times in the last month. I have some type of repertory thing going on yet my Dr. has informed me that they now have a new set of standards that they have to go by. I call it the “Do everything you can for the veteran to make it look as if you care and are trying to treat them as long as it does not cost any money”. He basically told me that my lunge were clear (after I sat there hacking) and thought I had bronchitis. He prescribed me two days worth of antibiotics w/ no refill and a two day supply of cough syrup to help get rid of the phlegm that he had just told me I did not have. I still have the symptoms only worse now. He will do no more for it and states it should run it’s course and I will be fine. I am also on chronic pain meds (15mG of morphine three times a day) and have been on this amount for almost eight months. He has never had me in to discuss the effectiveness of this and if an adjustment is needed. I know that a tolerance is built up after time on these and I feel as if I am not getting the same results as I was. When I asked him about an appointment to discuss this he said none was needed and I am on a substantial dose now and he sees no way to increase that. So now I can barely stand as I am light headed, off balance, I am hacking like crazy and brining up very small (1/8 inch) green stuff. My pain is going back up but I am doing “fine” by his own words. So take notice if they start doing things that are low cost and refuse to do anything that will cost them some $$$ as this is not part of their new set of standards. My Dr. also prescribed Icyhot to put on my knees for the pain (had it prescribed twice before with no luck) and then went to gabapentin (same as before had taken it twice with no luck). I am getting so tired of being treated this way and I am getting things together to see the patient Advocate about him. He used to be so helpful. He even tried to get patches put on my knee braces because the metal has came through and I wanted a new pair before they tore into my jeans. This is not what we deserve and I will not settle for it.

  4. Some remarks:
    -Yes, there are some very dedicated doctors doing very important state-of-the-art research within the VAHS. I read about it on many fronts in many magazine articles. There are also doctors within the system that could care less about anything and just work at the VA to pick up a paycheck because they don’t want to be bothered with the annoyance of private practice. You should understand that you have to keep your options open. Look into getting a private insurance plan to augment what you get through the VA system. You can pick and choose what you will tolerate from the VA and decide if you would be better off using a doctor in private practice for another illness that the VA isn’t handling well on your behalf. Don’t force yourself into thinking you MUST get EVERYTHING done by the VA because they owe you. You owe it to yourselves to have options. It’s too bad it’s that way, but that is the way it is.
    -Patient Advocates are not advocates at all. They are meek people who write emails to the head of the dept. you have a complaint about. These advocates aren’t worth a crap and nobody takes them seriously. A good way to get attention is to find out the rep who handles medical disputes and wrongdoings at the DAV in your state and have them write the director of your facility and ask the correct action be taken. You’ll have the power of addressing the issue multi-laterally instead of unilaterally. God forbid, directors don’t want you to start talking to big organizations like the DAV about how much they SUCK – they will be embarresed – and that’s the name of your game, isn’t it? Each state has some rep of the DAV that handles medical problems. Find yours.
    -Don’t think the world feels you are looking for a handout when you are entitled to benefits for being banged up in the military. Even the most conservative talk show hosts say they are not talking about veterans (benefits) when they rub on “government handouts” the gov. throws out to everyone in the world.
    -The VA will never function like they are in the 21st century. After all, they are government! The people bastardizing the system are people who come in as advisors to the top and work on “innovation systems divisions” to help perpetuate their myth and there careers. How about fixing the god-damn phone system so we can get through when we call? How about fixing all these bugs that make all of us vomit? That’s enough innovation needed for starters.

    • If I may ask, how long have you been in the VA medical Health system. Do you have a service connected disability? Yes some Dr’s do a great job. That is about to change. You will notice less and less of them actually helping. I went into the service without any knee problems and now 25 years later I feel as if some one is continuously slamming me in both knees with a ball bat. Try and have a happy day feeling that way. I am unemployed because I can not stand on my legs for very long or lift over 15 Lbs., I am 50 years old, take morphine for my chronic pain (which means I will never pass a drug test to become employed). Even with a Dr’s note no one wants to hire me. I have been to college, graduated and here I sit with a broken body and a broken wallet. I can not afford another (so in your words “I am forced into getting all of my help from the VA) healthcare system or I would just to get away from the VA. But while I am a member of the VA healthcare System, they should treat me with respect and treat my problems like a private Dr. would. The do not and they will not. They do not need to as anything that is in your records that is a negative, they simply shred and you have no proof of anything. I am hoping you have been in this for at least 25 years like I have and have had to fight for most of what I needed for even the simplest procedure. I think I have a right to give my opinion and tell what I have seen over all the years I have been in this. You may want to quit reading the magazines as they are only telling you what you want to hear and how good everything is in the VA. The are telling you a huge lie. I have written my reps as you have stated and I have gotten no where with them, No help, nothing. Same with Patient Advocate. And to be clear, the VA does not give a crap with whom you talk to or about. They do not have to testify under oath and have been caught lying, shredding documents, denying comp claims to get bonuses and much, much, more. You sir, are so wrong on much of this.

  5. The VA is a federal jobs program for its employees and contractors. Anything they do that resembles fair and reasonable administration of Veterans benefits is a fluke. Criminal charges should be filed by the USDOJ against anyone, from the top on down, against anyone at the VA reasonably suspected of being involved in misappropriations of funds or receiving special perks of any kind. Tens of thousands of VA staff in fact receive cash bonuses and other benefits for deliberately and falsely denying valid VA claims. It is an absolute mafia style racket where the USDOJ and Congress look the other way while pretending to be highly concerned. Billions are wasted on paying VA employees who really do nothing for veterans, and much worse, in fact sabotage and harm veterans by falsely denying legitimate hard earned benefits. Anyone with a pulse who has any interest in the VA knows this is all true. The VA should be shut down and replaced by private contractors who only get paid for processing benefit claims that they have approved according to VA guidelines, instead of wasting billions of dollars in the bogus gigantic jobs program that the VA actually is. It is long past the time that we need to privatize the VA and get rid of the entire organization as it exists now.

    • I agree with you 100% The only problem with your solution is that your are thinking. That is not allowed in the “Wonderful World of the VA”. If we all start thinking about how to fix what we know is broken and what maybe, would be a way to fix something then how would all of the higher-ups live with their (or what they think is their) money being used on helping us to possibly get better. It is simple, we are Vets who deserve nothing and they are very important people who deserve a huge paycheck and a guaranteed raise every year. You know they work so hard trying to make it almost impossible to receive any type of medical help.
      I really like your idea of having an outside source to look at our claims and any other “problems” we are having so that things will get straightened out. I bet it would be quicker as well.
      Have a good weekend and just to make sure I was kidding on the above.

  6. WELL, I HAD ENOUGH BY BEING TREATED SO RUDELY BY DOCTORS, YELLED IN THE ER WHEN I HAD BEEN IN THE FETAL POSITION FOR PAIN SEVERAL DAYS, I HAD MEDS, BUT SHE FAILED TO RECOGNIZE THE FACTS OF MY ISSUE. SHE WAS RUDE, TOLD ME WHY DIDN’T I MAKE AN APPOINTMENT AT A CLINIC, UM LADY, I WORKED ER, I CAME HERE BECAUSE THIS IS SO ABNORMAL MORE NEEDS TO BE CHECKED OUT. SO TWO SHOTS, NIETHER WORKED, I ASKED FOR AN X-RAY, I COULD SEE THE SWELLING BY MY FUSION SITE, SHE STATED IT WAS NORMAL. I LEFT, MADE AN APPOINTMENT AND,WHAT A STRANGE RIDE IT HAS BEEN. AFTER SEEING THIS DOCTOR, GIVING HER CLUES, ASK QUESTIONS DON’T ASSUME, TWO DAYS LATER I GET IN MY MAILBOX MEDICATIONS PRESCRIBED BY THAT ER DOCTOR, QUIET DAY I MIGHT ADD, AND IT GOES AGAINST EVERY COMMON SENSE RULE, OF ASKING THE PATIENT IF THEY ARE ALLERGIC OR HAD ANY REACTIONS IN THE PAST TO A DRUG. WHY YES, I DID. SO, WE SHALL WRITE IN DETAIL OF EACH EVENT, WE SHALL HAVE THE CHARGES THEY EXPECT ME TO PAY, AND AS NOTED, I HAVE SEEN THE DALLAS VA MAKES THE NEWS QUITE A BIT, NOT IN A POSITIVE WAY. I DID SEND AN EMAIL TO POTUS, AND CALLED, BUT NO WAY IN HELL AM I DONE. THE SLEEPING TIGER WHO IS ENDURING WAY TOO MUCH PAIN, THAT IF I BECOME PARALYZED FROM MY WASTE DOWN, LAW SUIT FROM HELL WILL COMETH! DAMN THE HOUSE, DAMN THE CONGRESS, THEY DIDN’T PASS THE BILL FOR MST? WHY, IS IT OKAY TO RAPE, AND DESTROY LIVES IN THE PROCESS OF DOING SO? UM YEAH, I SENT IN A QUESTION REGARDING MY RESERVE MEDICAL RECORDS. I GAVE THEM A COPY SAW IT PUT IN MY FILE, YET BACK CLAIM AND OTHER INFO IS NOT THERE. JUST WHEN I WORKED AT NRPC. HE TOLD ME TO CALL MY LAST COMMAND, THEY NO LONGER EXISTS. BUT USING LOGICAL THINKING, I STATED IF THE RECORDS WERE THERE AS I SAW THEM, THEN EXPLAIN WHERE THEY WENT. YES, STUMPED A VSO GUY. GO FIGURE! I AM TELLING YOU, WRITE LETTER AFTER LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT AND DEMAND MORE SPENDING FOR VETERANS, HIS BUDGET WASN’T SO HOT. AND HE NEEDS TO RECOGNIZE NOT EVERYONE KNOWS THEY HAVE PTSD, BUT A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE DID, AND SINCE I WAS DOING SO MANY SURGERIES SHE WAS GOING TO WAIT. JUST FYI, IF YOU HAVE PTSD, THE GAF SCORES WERE SUPPOSE TO STOP BEING USED, BUT A VERY SMART VETERAN AND HIS WIFE GIVE YOU STEP BY STEP WAYS TO GET TREATED AND RATED. JUST GOOGLE IT! SOMETIMES CONTACTING YOUR CONGRESSMAN WHO DEALS WITH VETERAN ISSUES, TOLD ME WHAT TO DOWNLOAD, I WILL, AND MY TREATMENT, AND SMART ENOUGH TO GET A COPY TO DATE OF WHAT THEY WISH TO DO. BE ONE STEP AHEAD, IT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET RESULTS DONE!

    • Denise, I like it when a veteran stands up for what they know is right and will fight to the end for it. I am the same way. I can tell that you are soooo very p*#sed about this. It is what we need to do. Fight, complain, make waves, rock the boat, what ever you want to call it but DO NOT EVER GIVE IN. You make a great point about asking questions they are not expecting so they are not ready with the same old BS of an excuse. I have stated to question everything they put in my records.. I.E. My Dr. put down that my cranial nerves II through XII were grossly intact and I ask him about it.(I knew the answer) and he did explain it and I said “that is a lie” What look on his face. He said “what do you mean?” and I told him if he would look in my records he would see that back in 2003 I had a TBI and it caused me to loose my sense of smell and taste. He did not know what to say and changed it in my records. Me 1 Dr.0 I will continue this until he understands not to put down lies on my records. I also put in corrections when I find errors and compliment when a good job has been done. This shows that I am not just complaining about the bad but letting them know when one done a god job.

  7. OH, JUST FYI, IN 1984 GULFPORT, MS. AT THE BASE THERE HAD BARRELS OF AGENT ORANGE THAT HAD LEAKED INTO THE SOIL. HOW MANY YEARS IS THAT? SO ANY VETS YOU KNOW OR WERE ONE AND STATIONED THERE, BE CHECKED OUT. THEY DID SET UP A TENTED AREA AND WERE BURNING THE SOIL ASSURING EVERYONE WAS NOT GOING TO BE AFFECT. WELL, WHY DON’T I TRUST THE GOVERNMENT? COULD IT BE MY MISSING PORTIONS OF MY RECORDS???

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