Key TBI Programs in Jeopardy

Bush budget would eliminate services that benefit injured returning soldiers WASHINGTON – Reporter Bob Woodruff’s February 27th special documenting his […]

Bush budget would eliminate services that benefit injured returning soldiers

WASHINGTON – Reporter Bob Woodruff’s February 27th special documenting his experience with traumatic brain injury (TBI) also showed the continuing unmet need for returning soldiers to receive the “support that matches their sacrifice.”

Over 23,000 soldiers have been wounded in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Brain injuries account for approximately two-thirds of the known injuries suffered in the war, although it is estimated that at least 10 percent of soldiers and marines that have served may have undiagnosed brain injuries.

Despite these overwhelming numbers, President Bush’s recommended budget eliminates the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program, which includes funding for Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) – a program essential to so many troops returning with disabilities acquired in combat. Given the nature of brain injuries, these individuals run a high risk of falling through the cracks if advocacy programs such as PATBI are eliminated, as recommended in the President’s budget.

“At a time when traumatic brain injuries account for a higher proportion of casualties than in other wars, it is unconscionable that the President is recommending absolutely no funding for a program so essential to this population,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).

The president’s recommendation also comes despite the findings of a 2006 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report  calling the two programs an “overall success” and finding “there is considerable value in providing … funding.”

Along with the estimated 5.3 million Americans already living with disabilities resulting from TBI, these service men and women face an array of advocacy needs provided by the PATBI program, including assistance with returning to work; accessing needed supports and services; and obtaining appropriate mental health, substance abuse, and rehabilitation services.

Effective protection and advocacy services for people with traumatic brain injury can lead both to reduced government expenditures and increased productivity, independence and community integration. With limited current funds, TBI P&A advocates across the country are:

• Providing direct individual advocacy for children and adults with TBI in all the states and territories, including access to appropriate health care, community living, housing, education, guardianship and employment;

• Providing individuals with TBI with the knowledge and skills to help them be effective self advocates;

• Challenging the failure of state hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, intermediate care facilities, and schools to provide appropriate supports and therapies to individuals with TBI who may require modifications to traditional supports in order for them to be effective;

• Working to ensure appropriate discharge planning and supports for persons with TBI leaving unnecessarily segregated settings and moving into the community;

• Developing advocacy and legal rights training curriculum for use by leaders of brain injury support groups, and self-advocacy guidebook for TBI consumers, family members, and advocates; and

• Educating policymakers about the needs of individuals with TBI and the importance of supporting programs designed to address these needs and working on legislation to reduce the incidence of TBI, such as seat belt, helmet, and All Terrain Vehicle laws.

“In his State of the Union address, the President assured the nation that ‘we will meet [the] responsibilities of

[caring] for the elderly, the disabled, and poor children.’ How much more do we owe our returning service men and women returning with disabilities acquired in the line of duty?” said Decker.

The Institute of Medicine report can be found at:

http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11600.html

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States. For further information, a TBI Fact Sheet can be found online at:

www.ndrn.org/issues/TIB/TBI_fs.pdf

Source: National Disability Rights Network

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