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VA Care Options for Traumatic Brain Injury

What Is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, can happen in the line of duty or in your civilian life. Whether through combat, being hit by an object in a sports game, an explosion, or a common car crash, any impact on your head may cause TBI.

This type of injury is not as apparent as a laceration, bruise, or broken bone. The Department of Defense cited almost 400,000 recognized cases of TBI among service members between 2000 and 2017 alone.

The severity of Traumatic Brain Injury can vary, and signs can be confused with other injuries and ailments, so it is important to be able to identify potential cases and seek urgent treatment. Your brain is your lifeline, and risking further damage by ignoring symptoms will only worsen your condition.

TBI symptoms will appear in your behavior, cognitive state, and body movements. These symptoms can lead to depression and problems sleeping and affect your mental health.

Those close to you may notice changes in your behavior and abilities before you, so make them aware of the signs of TBI. Even in mild cases, treatment is recommended.

If you have experienced a head injury, be mindful of the following symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury: inability to focus, headache, dizziness, memory loss, blurry vision, problems hearing and speaking, mood changes that mostly show as anger or frustration, or having a short fuse.

Some patients with TBI experience confusion and anxiety, leading to pounding heartbeat and insomnia. In a mild case, these symptoms can be temporary, but in some cases, they can take months or a lifetime to resolve.

VA Resources for TBI

If you have symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury or have recently served in combat, the VA will require you to do a TBI screening. In this screening, you will be given four questions to evaluate your risk.

Depending on the results of this screening, you may be recommended to seek further treatment with a specialist. Even if your symptoms are not qualified as TBI, these are symptoms that should not be ignored and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

The VA offers effective treatments for TBI that may help you recover faster. Through the VA, mental and physical health resources can be offered by clinical means or peer support according to your medical needs. Treatments may include the recommendation for additional rest, medication or surgery.

Related: Ultimate TRICARE Guide

VA Treatment Options for TBI

All treatments offered or assigned through the VA are evidence-based for this type of injury. There are many types of TBI, thus, TBI and related conditions are personally crafted to address your specific symptoms and needs to help you regain your mental strength, stamina and well-being.

Some cases of TBI will be treated with medication accompanied by therapeutic support or counseling.

There is no one correct way to treat TBI, so be transparent and open with your medical professional so they can tailor the treatment to your specific situation. Medications can include prescriptions to help you focus or control mood swings and address related pain.

Therapies or supportive treatment options are also suggested for anyone showing symptoms of TBI. Therapies will also be recommended based on symptoms and needs.

Treatments can include but are not limited to: rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, anger management, talk therapy, and supportive work and home therapies. Your VA provider will help locate these services and connect you to treatment options.

In severe cases, where extra help is needed, the VA may help arrange for caregivers or determine the necessary caregiving resources for the service member with TBI. Caregiving can also be stressful, so in addition to the service member’s support, the caregiver may also receive caregiver support through the VA.

Related: Guide to Private Life Insurance for Military Families

Action Steps for Suspected TBI

The first thing to do when you suspect you or someone you know may be showing signs of Traumatic Brain Injury is to reach out to your local VA to arrange for an evaluation. During this evaluation, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn about your options to create a treatment plan.

Schedule your mental health appointment through the VA, which will help you contact VA mental health services. If you have not been actively using the VA for health care, contact the nearest VA medical center so they can refer you to the correct option. If you are new to the VA, they will also help you through the initial paperwork steps and processes to get you on your recovery journey.

If you are not mobile, or there is not a VA medical center within a reasonable distance for you to travel, you can access online mental health services. VA mental health services offer many other treatment and support options online.

Telehealth allows you to make appointments by phone or video to address your needs. If a situation is not addressable online, Telehealth can recommend you to options for a specialist. Service members and veterans can also send messages securely to health care professionals using My HealtheVet to protect their privacy

The VA may recommend service members to use the self-help portal for veteran training. Available training can close gaps to improve de-escalation skills, anger management, problem-solving, communication, and parenting skills that help service members and their families achieve healthy homes.

Mobile apps, including apps for insomnia and behavioral therapies, can also be accessed to support managing your symptoms, especially those stemming from Traumatic Brain Injury.

The Road to Recovery

  • Once you have been evaluated and a treatment plan has been created, don’t forget to maintain a healthy lifestyle to aid in your recovery. Ensure you eat and sleep well to ensure your body works with you through your treatment plan.
  • Stick to your treatment plan. Unless prescribed, medications, as well as alcohol or drugs can delay your recovery and cause other problems. If your current medications aren’t ineffective, contact your medical practitioner.
  • Reach out to family and friends to maintain a social life. Building and keeping positive relationships will not only give you an emotional boost, but will remind you that you have support.
  • Remember you are never alone. If you need further support, contact the VA and your friends and family when you need to talk.
  • Healing takes time. You may suffer setbacks, but you can regain your progress through time and sticking to your treatment plan.
  • If you are overwhelmed and need help immediately, don’t wait. Reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line for help 24/7.

Related: Comprehensive Military Benefits Guide


About the author

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Kena Sosa is an award-winning author, filmmaker and percussionist. She
earned her BA from OLLU and her MBEGT from SMU. She published two
award-winning children’s books. Kena has written for CBS/DFW Local and
Multicultural Review Magazine. She was the Guest Editor for the Fall/Winter
2023 ChildArt Magazine issue. Kena has written for Recon Media since 2023.