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What is traumatic brain injury?

Veterans across the United States have fought hard for the country. Assuring treatment for life-altering and serious medical injuries constitutes one of the most significant veterans' issues. Members of the military frequently suffered TBI resulting from blast injuries during their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

TBI also follows a blow or jolt to the head or an object which penetrates the brain. A brain injury disrupts the constant communication which normally occur different parts of the brain to manage routine actions. This interference can inhibit the simplest of tasks.

In addition to blasts, other causes of TBI include being struck by an object such as a fist or a bat during a fight, and striking an object -- such as a car dashboard in an accident or the ground during a fall. The severity of a brain injury is determined at the time that the injury occurs and is based on the loss of consciousness, length of memory loss or disorientation or the responsiveness of the victim after the injury and whether they are responsive to stimuli such as commands.

Injuries span in severity from mild -- with a brief loss consciousness or disorientation -- to severe with an extended loss of consciousness or a penetrating brain injury. These severity levels may be arbitrary but have prognostic value because more severe TBI usually makes recovery more difficult.

TBI can cause physical and behavioral changes or difficulties with thinking skills. A number of symptoms occur after the injury which include headaches, dizziness or problems with walking, fatigue, irritability, memory loss and concentration problems.

Given the severity and potentially life-altering consequences of TBI, it is vital that treatment is sought immediately. TBI treatments address symptoms that interfere with normal everyday tasks and include medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, assistive devices and technologies and learning how to address health, cognitive and behavioral problems.

Veterans can obtain treatment at one of the specialized treatment programs in this system, through a local Veterans Administration Medical Center or from community healthcare providers. Legal assistance may help veterans receive this treatment and assure that their rights to benefits, including long-term medical care, are protected. This advice can help assure that the application and appeal process moves expeditiously and assures that proper benefits are awarded and treatment is rendered.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Polytrauma/TBI system of care," Accessed Nov. 2, 2015

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