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Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health
Regarding H.R. 3051

September 9, 2008

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Miller, Distinguished Members of this Subcommittee, and guests, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) thanks you for the opportunity to present our views on H.R. 3051, the “Heroes at Home Act OF 2007,” that is designed to improve the diagnosis and treatment of TBI (traumatic brain injury) for service members and veterans, and to review and expand the tele-health and tele-mental health programs DoD and VA. With your permission, I shall keep my remarks brief and to the point.

First, VVA thanks you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Miller as well as distinguished Members of this Subcommittee for your active concern in regard to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and related mental health problems of our troops and veterans, and for your leadership in holding this hearing today.

In general, Vietnam Veterans of America supports the intent of H.R. 3051. However, medical experts say that traumatic brain injuries are the “signature wound” of the Iraq war in particular, a by-product of the explosions caused by I.E.D. roadside blasts and suicide bombers. TBIs have become so commonplace that they, in fact, form the basis for today’s hearing.

Although TBIs may share some symptoms with post traumatic stress disorder, it is markedly different than PTSD, which is triggered by extreme anxiety, and permanently resets the brain’s fight-or-flight mechanism. Battlefield medics and corpsmen can often miss traumatic brain injuries, and many troops don’t know the symptoms or won’t discuss their problems for fear of being sent home stigmatized with mental illness. The same is true for those who return to the U.S. for garrison duty or exit their term of military service and become veterans.

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