House Passes Pascrell, Rooney TBI Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) offered by the co-chairs of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Tom Rooney (FL-17). 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.
"I am pleased this amendment passed because it is imperative that DOD’s policies are implemented consistently across all of the military services and that there is adequate oversight of adherence," said Rep. Pascrell. "Given the impact that TBI and PTSD have on an individual’s behavior and decision-making skills, it is critical that these conditions are accurately diagnosed in a timely manner. It is also important that these conditions receive appropriate consideration when a servicemember is discharged for misconduct and that servicemembers understand the implications of these separations on their eligibility for VA benefits."
"With tens of thousands of our nation’s troops and veterans suffering from invisible wounds like TBI and PTSD we need to do our due diligence to ensure all service branch policies are consistent with the Department of Defense," said Rep. Rooney. "These men and women put their lives on the line to defend our country and it is our responsibility to care for them and take all factors into consideration in military 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.
"Robust treatment and care is essential to lessen (relieve, reduce, curtail) the strain of TBI on service members and their families," said Susan Connors, president and CEO of the Brain Injury Association of America. "By directing our military to address inconsistencies with screening and treatment ahead of discharge, we take an important step forward in appropriately caring for our military heroes."
"A practice of punitive-discharge for a service related brain injury is a practice bereft of honor. The behavioral or emotional symptoms from a traumatic brain injury demand medical and rehabilitative care as well as long-term support for recovery, accommodation or adaptation to a "new normal," said Geoffrey Lauer from the U.S. Brain Injury Alliance Board of Directors. "The United States Brain Injury Alliance strongly supports Congressman Pascrell and Congressman Rooney's efforts in this area."
"The National Association of State Head Injury Administrators fully supports Rep. Pascrell and Rep. Rooney's efforts to ensure that our servicemen and women are appropriately screened for incidence of PTSD and TBI," said Lorraine Wargo, the Executive Director the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators. "It is imperative that military officers be trained to identify these issues and that they are subsequently considered in the event of a separation 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.