House Passes Final Defense Authorization Bill With Pascrell, Rooney TBI Amendment
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the conference committee report of H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an amendment from the co-chairs of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Tom Rooney (R-FL). This amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress within 180 days on the implementation of recommendations from a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the military services’ consideration of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in misconduct separations.
“This amendment will ensure that DOD’s policies related to TBI and PTSD and military separations are implemented consistently across all of the military services and that there is adequate oversight of adherence. I am pleased it was included in the final Defense Authorization bill,” said Rep. Pascrell. “We know that TBI and PTSD have a profound impact on an individual’s decision-making, memory, and emotional functioning, which is why these conditions need to be accurately diagnosed in a timely manner with appropriate treatment. Additionally, TBI and PTSD need to be adequately accounted for in decisions on military separations and servicemembers need to understand the implications of these separations.”
In May 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report entitled "Actions Needed to Ensure Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury Are Considered in Misconduct Separations." GAO found that some of the service branch policies related to the consideration of TBI and PTSD in "other than honorable" discharges were inconsistent with Department of Defense (DOD) policy. To remedy these inconsistencies, DOD issued five recommendations to increase its assurance that PTSD and TBI are appropriately considered prior to separating certain servicemembers from the military for misconduct.
The amendment is endorsed by Brain Injury Association of America, the U.S. Brain Injury Alliance, and the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators.
Rep. Pascrell has been working for years to advance brain injury policy on Capitol Hill. He co-founded the Task Force in 2001 and has served as task force co-chair since its inception. The Task Force works to increase awareness of brain injury in the United States, supports research initiatives for rehabilitation and potential cures, and strives to address the effects such injuries have on families, children, education, and the workforce.
In the report entitled "Actions Needed to Ensure Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury Are Considered in Misconduct Separations." GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense:
- Direct the Air Force and Navy to address inconsistencies with DOD policy in their policies related to:
- screening certain servicemembers, including servicemembers separating in lieu of trial by court-martial, for PTSD and TBI and reviewing the results prior to separation for misconduct; and
- training servicemembers, including officers, on how to identify mild TBI symptoms in the deployed setting.
- Ensure that the military services routinely monitor adherence to policies related to:
- screening certain servicemembers for PTSD and TBI prior to separation for misconduct;
- training servicemembers, including officers, on how to identify mild TBI symptoms in the deployed setting; and
- counseling about VA benefits and services during the process of separating certain servicemembers for misconduct.