The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) asked me to share this Legislative Update for December 2014.

Congress returned from the Thanksgiving holiday this week to address a number of pending issues, including appropriations to keep the federal government running past Dec. 11, when the current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding government ends. Also on their plate is the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which has passed every year for the past 53 years.

 Traumatic Brain Injury

On November 26, President Obama signed S. 2539, the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Reauthorization Act of 2014, reauthorizing funding for TBI Act programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through fiscal year (FY) 2019. The measure is now known as Public Law 113-196. BIAA applauds the President, bill sponsors and all of those who have supported this measure to improve data, prevention, research, and service delivery for individuals with brain injury and their families. This was a heavy lift for brain injury stakeholders and all should feel especially pleased that we were successful.

Veterans and Suicide and TBI

At the end of November, the House Veterans Affairs Committee passed bipartisan legislation to help prevent veteran suicide and to amend the requirements for reviewing discharges of military service members diagnosed with TBI or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Introduced by Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Representatives Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), H.R. 5059, requires a board reviewing the discharge or dismissal of a former member of the Armed Forces whose application for relief is based at least in part on PTSD or TBI-related to military operations or sexual trauma, to: (1) review the medical evidence from the VA or a civilian health provider that is presented by the former member; and (2) review the case, with a presumption of administrative irregularity, and place the burden on the VA or the Department of Defense (DoD) to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence that no error or injustice occurred. Referred to as the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, the bill requires a third-party review of Pentagon and VA mental health and suicide prevention programs at least annually. H.R. 5059 has 107 cosponsors and is named for Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who committed suicide in 2011 at age 28.

 Meanwhile, the Senate is expected to consider the BIAA-supported Jacob Sexton Suicide Prevention Act of 2014 as a part of this year’s national defense bill next week.