February 16, 2016

Sgt. Shaft caricatureDear Sgt Shaft
Have you heard any updates on how the VA is dealing with poly trauma care?

Dan J
Via the internet

Dear Dan
This is an issue that has been garnering a lot of attention lately. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Polytrauma System of Care (PSC) has hit the one million mark in screening Veterans for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), often regarded as one of the signature injuries of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. TBI symptoms such as severe headaches, memory loss, reduced executive functioning, and tinnitus can range from manageable to seriously disabling, potentially limiting a Veteran’s ability to work and manage daily living. Screening Veterans for TBI and helping them to deal with the condition is one of the central programs of PSC.

Started in May 2005, PSC provides comprehensive and coordinated rehabilitative care to Veterans with life-changing injuries, including TBI, limb loss, blindness, hearing loss and tinnitus, among others.  PSC also assists with community re-entry needs. It is fully coordinated with the Department of Defense to ensure uninterrupted, seamless health care transition for those that served on active duty.

Over these past 10 years, many Servicemembers have returned home with injuries that would not have been survivable in previous conflicts. Today, they not only survive, they thrive, in large part due to PSC, a thoroughly Veteran-centric VA program.

“The one million mark in TBI screenings reflects VA’s success in building an integrated polytrauma care program for wounded and injured Servicemembers and Veterans.” said Dr. David J. Shulkin, VA Under Secretary for Health. “VA’s dedicated polytrauma care teams recognize the importance of taking care of the whole person and coordinating physical, mental and rehabilitative care for Veterans suffering the most dramatic injuries of the war.”

VA employees created PSC to address the need for a comprehensive multi-disciplinary system of care to help Veterans suffering with two or more injuries considered disabling physical and psychological impairments, such as blast injuries and traumatic amputations.  PSC patients have sustained injuries affecting multiple body parts that result in physical, cognitive, psychological, and functional disabilities. Frequently, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) occurs in Polytrauma patients, as does Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other mental health problems.

“The Polytrauma System of Care sets VA apart from other health care systems,” said Dr. Joel Scholten, National Director, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for VA. “PSC demonstrates VA’s unique understanding of the needs of Veterans and the best way to support them in achieving well-being and their personal life goals.”

VA has 110 Polytrauma rehabilitation sites across the country, including 5 Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation); 23 Polytrauma Network Sites (comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation); and 87 Polytrauma Support Clinic Teams (comprehensive outpatient rehabilitations). Services available through PCS include interdisciplinary evaluation and treatment, development of a comprehensive plan of care, case management, patient and family education and training, psychosocial support, and use of advanced rehabilitation treatments and prosthetic technologies.

For more information about the Polytrauma System of Care, visit www.polytrauma.va.gov/. A VA blog post featuring Polytrauma System of Care may be found here.

Shaft Notes
The House passed nine veterans related bills:

H.R. 3106, the Construction Reform Act of 2015, would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire an assistant inspector general for construction projects to continually investigate VA’s construction process, which is continually plagued by cost overruns and mismanagement.

H.R. 3016, the Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act, would close the wasteful GI Bill flight-school loophole, which is gouging taxpayers with exorbitant tuition expenses of up to more than $500,000 for a single student. It would also extend the length of time for which newborn babies of veterans are eligible for VA care and give spouses of deceased troops additional time and flexibility to use GI Bill benefits.

H.R. 2360, the Career-Ready Student Veterans Act of 2015, would protect student veterans and the integrity of the GI Bill by ensuring participating educational programs meet state licensure and certification standards.

H.R. 677, the American Heroes COLA Act of 2015, would make veterans’ annual cost of living allowances automatic, so veterans receiving VA compensation would automatically receive the same COLA as social security recipients. The bill would also honor veterans by expanding the acceptable forms of documentation used to determine service in the Merchant Marine during World War II and extend a pilot program that offers retreats for newly separated women veterans.

H.R. 3234, the Failing VA Medical Center Recovery Act, would force VA to deal with problem medical centers by sending a rapid deployment team to each underperforming facility with the goal of achieving satisfactory performance as soon as possible.

H.R. 2915, the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act, would help ensure VA is properly focusing on the suicide prevention programs that are most effective for women and result in the highest satisfaction rates.

H.R. 4437 would extend the deadline for the submittal of the final report required by the Commission on Care.

H.R. 3262 would provide for the conveyance of land of the Illiana Health Care System of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Danville, Illinois.

H.R. 4056 would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to convey to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs all right, title, and interest of the United States to the property known as “The Community Living Center” at the Lake Baldwin Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, Orlando, Florida.

The bills now await consideration by the Senate. Following House passage of the bills, Chairman Miller released the below statement.

“Once again the House has made important progress toward improving the lives of veterans while enhancing accountability and efficiency at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


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