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The BAT-L uses novel forensic interview techniques to evaluate TBI in post-9/11 Veterans

Photo: Students in the Army Combat Medic Specialist Training Program at the Medical Education and Training Campus, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, conduct a concussion evaluation. (Photo by Lisa Braun, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston)
Students in the Army’s Combat Medic Specialist Training Program at the Medical Education and Training Campus on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, conduct a concussion evaluation. (Photo by Lisa Braun, Medical Education and Training Campus Public Affairs, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston)

Mild traumatic brain injuries are not visible, not readily identified, and often overlooked.

“Perceived stigma, a 'tough it out' mentality, confidentiality issues, and a commitment to the mission can all contribute to underreporting,” said Dr. Sahra Kim, research psychologist at the VA Boston Healthcare System and lead author of a recent study on the diagnostic accuracy of the Boston Assessment of Traumatic Brain Injury-Lifetime, known as BAT-L, clinical interview compared to military medical records. “Under documentation of head injuries may be due to a combination of lack of reporting, the co-occurrence of other serious injuries that require more immediate attention, or combat related factors that make it difficult to prioritize documentation -- mission and team safety may be higher priority than concussion assessment protocols, for example.”

The TRACTS National Center for TBI at VA Boston HCS has demonstrated that the BAT-L, a retrospective clinical interview using forensic interview techniques, is able to accurately diagnose deployment-related head injuries months -- and even years -- after they occur. Given the lack of military service documentation for many of the reasons explained above, the tool can be critical to the health and well-being of post-9/11 Veterans.

VA provides treatment and care for Veterans with TBI, alone or in combination with other injuries and health conditions. Depending on their needs, Veterans with TBI can receive treatment at one of the specialized rehabilitation programs in the VA Polytrauma System of Care or through their local VA, including VA Boston HCS. TRACTS also offers rehabilitation options curated from the lessons learned from more than a decade of research. Contact TRACTS Recruiter Sgt. Wally Musto at 617-799-8617 to learn more.

Treatments for TBI focus on the symptoms that cause most problems in everyday life. These treatments can include medications; learning strategies to deal with health, cognitive, and behavioral problems; rehabilitation therapies, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech-language therapy; and assistive devices and technologies. Ask your VA healthcare team for more information.

More about the research on the diagnostic accuracy of BAT-L is available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35670452/

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