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Brain pledges made to VA program

Many veterans in California and throughout the nation are suffering with a silent injury that is among the most significant veterans' issues. Recent research has disclosed the effects of traumatic brain injury on veterans along with professional athletes or any person who suffered a head injury.

Secretary of Veterans' Affairs Robert A. McDonald, Olympic gold medalist winner Nancy Hogshead-Makar and former NFL player Phil Villapiano just pledged to donate their brains to an advanced brain research program being conducted by the VA with the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The Foundation is seeking post-death brain donations from living veterans and athletes for advanced research being conducted in partnership with the VA and Boston University.

The impacts of TBI may be visible and dramatic. While 90 percent of TBI cases may be mild, other cases can have serious and long-term consequences. TBI may interrupt the normal functioning of the brain. Symptoms include headaches or neck pain which is persistent, light and noise sensitivity, blurred vision, fatigue, ringing in the ears, chronic depression, anxiety, problems with concentrating and organizing daily tasks, apathy and impairment with thinking, speaking and reading.

Veterans, particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, often suffered war-related injuries associated with TBI. These wounds were caused by explosions from roadside bombs, artillery rockets and mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades and aerial bombs. Vehicle accidents and falls are other causes.

Research on this condition, also known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, began at the VA. The program began with a veteran who was a former boxer and expanded into a research collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and several other organizations. The VA is currently seeking to integrate efforts with the DOD, the sports industry, other federal agencies and the private sector. A researcher said that advances will also have to take place outside the laboratory. Medical researchers will have to study battlefields, athletic events and other places where TBI originates.

Veterans who suffer TBI and its symptoms may be entitled to long-term medical care and other benefits from the VA. The righ legal approach may help assure access to these benefits.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA secretary joins others in pledge to donate their brains to VA-lead TBI research program," Accessed April 25, 2016

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