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HAP Healthcare Advancement Initiative News

This Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, learn about all VA is doing to help affected Veterans

September is recognized as National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, which aims to spread awareness about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and how people can protect themselves. According to the VA Polytrauma TBI program, a TBI may happen from a blow or jolt to the head or an object penetrating the brain. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s Office of Research & Development also offers a wealth of information on TBI, which can happen during contact sports, car accidents, or falls. Those who have served in the armed forces are at risk of TBI from explosions or training exercises.

VA’s Public Health office states that for those military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, TBI is most often the result of explosions from improvised explosive devices, aerial bombs, grenades, or motor vehicle accidents. “Even a mild TBI, also known as a concussion, can affect a person’s physical functioning and mental health,” according to the Public Health office. VA’s Office of Mental Health also provides information on TBI: “Between 2000 and 2017, the Department of Defense reported more than 375,000 diagnosed cases of TBI among members of the U.S. armed forces around the world … a TBI can affect your physical functions, thinking abilities, behaviors, and more.” TBI can also increase Veterans’ risk for changes to behavior, memory problems, or difficulty paying attention, according to VA’s Polytrauma office.

Since TBI is such a serious risk among military personnel and Veterans, VA offers information, support, and resources across the entire administration. VA’s Make the Connection platform offers stories from Veterans of many service eras who have experienced TBI, to help other Veterans understand they’re not alone and to connect them to health care services. Other Veterans have also shared their stories of getting help for TBI through VA health care initiatives: The Veterans Health Administration’s National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP) supported the in-home light-emitting diode (LED) treatment collaboration at the VA Boston Healthcare system, which involves the patient wearing a headset affixed with near-infrared LEDs, which transmit energy without generating heat. One Veteran diagnosed with TBI who did a home-based course of LED treatment said: “In general, I feel better. It really has made a significant change to me, personally.”

More than 180 Veterans were successfully treated through that LED collaboration since 2017, with many reporting symptom improvements in many areas of their life. Evidence suggests that LED therapy promotes healing at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow. Since the emergence of COVID-19, the few in-person treatment sessions have been conducted as telehealth appointments. The in-home nature and ability to do virtual visits for this clinic have helped Veterans continue to engage in the treatment, including those in rural communities. Veterans in the New England region can be referred for the treatment and there are plans to expand outside this region by training more VA providers in other areas.

“When Veterans have success with treatments for TBI such as LED, the evidence base for the effectiveness of these treatments grows. That can lead to more innovative, effective treatments being created for Veterans,” said Christine Eickhoff, health systems specialist for HAP. “VA is dedicated to continuing to get Veterans treatment and support for this health condition.”

For more information on HAP’s health care initiatives, please visit va.gov/healthpartnerships/hanews.asp.

External Link Disclaimer: This page contains links that will take you outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs website. VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked websites.

Posted September 14, 2021.