The Brain Injury Association of America updated its legislative progress on June 24, 2016.
Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act Brain injury advocates have helped get the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act (S. 849) further than it has ever advanced in the United States Senate. This bill would establish a data collection system to track the incidence and prevalence of neurological diseases including brain injury. Emerging therapies offer promise of cures for life-threatening diseases such as brain injury, Alzheimer’s, MS, cancer, Parkinson’s, and others. Our medical and research communities are on the cusp of personalized medicine that takes into account a patient’s unique genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. We must ensure research and regulatory institutions can keep pace. This pending legislation would streamline and modernize the biomedical research pipeline, and help bring new, safe and effective treatments and cures to Americans.
The Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act would establish a data collection system to track the incidence and prevalence of neurological diseases. This system will provide a foundation for evaluating and understanding aspects of neurological diseases on which we currently do not have a good grasp such as the geography of diagnoses, variances in gender and disease burden-also helping expedite our path to cures.
The U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously passed the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act in February. This June, S. 849 was filed as an amendment to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate passed the NDAA on June 14 and it ultimately did not include S. 849. While BIAA would like to see the Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act advance, the NDAA process offered very limited opportunity to strengthen the bill. BIAA will continue to work on opportunities to advance a strong Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act. This bill was included in the House of Representatives 21st Century Cures Act which was passed by the House. The Senate is still working to pass their version of 21st Century Cures, the Innovations Act.
VA Secretary Provides Relief for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injuries
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald has granted equitable relief to more than 24,000 Veterans following a national review of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) medical examinations conducted in connection with disability compensation claims processed between 2007 and 2015.This action by the Secretary allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer new TBI examinations to Veterans whose initial examination for TBI was not conducted by one of four designated medical specialists and provides them with the opportunity to have their claims reprocessed.
Equitable relief is a unique legal remedy that allows the Secretary to correct an injustice to a claimant where VA is not otherwise authorized to do so within the scope of the law. To ensure that TBI is properly evaluated for disability compensation purposes, VA developed a policy in 2007 requiring that one of four specialists – a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon or neurologist – complete TBI exams when VA does not have a prior diagnosis.
Since 2007, medicine around TBI has been a rapidly evolving science. VA designated particular specialists to conduct initial TBI exams because they have the most experience with the symptoms and effects of TBI. As more research became available, VA issued a number of guidance documents that may have created confusion regarding the policy.
VA has confirmed that its TBI policy guidance is now clear and being followed. Secretary McDonald stated we have let these Veterans down, that is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are entitled. VA understands the importance of an accurate exam to support Veterans’ disability claims.
The Secretary’s decision to grant relief will enable VA to take action on any new examinations without requiring Veterans to submit new claims. If additional benefits are due, VA will award an effective date as early as the date of the initial TBI claim. The VA will contact Veterans identified as part of this national TBI review to offer them an opportunity to receive a new examination and have their claims reprocessed. More than 13,000 of these affected Veterans are already receiving service-connected compensation benefits for TBI at a 10-percent disability evaluation or higher, which means that the diagnosis has already been established.