Posted on July 29, 2013 · Posted in Brain Injury

This is not a good thing: The Department of Defense has shuttered several facilities that treat veterans and active service members for traumatic brain injury (TBI).

With so-called sequestration cutting into the department’s budget this year, it appears that TBI centers that have small patient volume and are relatively costly to run are getting the ax. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center in Charlottesville, Va., has been closed, as has one in Johnston, Pa., according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The newspaper explained that both centers were part of the military’s health care system and its Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

It just seems unfortunate that while the Defense Department is giving lip service to ramping up treatment for soldiers who have sustained TBI, it is still closing down centers that are helping people.

The website for the centers explained why they were shut.

<em>In June 2013, the Department of Defense (DoD) made the decision to close two of the network sites of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, or DVBIC.  Because the two neurorehabilitation sites located in Johnstown, Pa., and Charlottesville, Va., are currently not treating patients, no service members’ care was impacted.

The two neurorehabilitation sites treated service members experiencing ongoing symptoms from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and, simultaneously, another condition that might include behavioral health issues. Because the facilities were unique and intensive, they handled a small number of patients and incurred high costs compared to other facilities.

As the contract for the two sites expired and costs were measured, including those for a necessary information technology upgrade at each site, the DoD decided that other existing facilities could provide this care for service members.</em>

The Times-Dispatch story quoted Dr. Jeffrey Barth, a neuropsychology consultant who worked for the Charlottesville center, who expressed disappointment about the facility closing. The center’s goal was to help military TBI sufferers reintegrate into society after the service, as well as to help these individuals cope with the mental and cognitive issues that often arise following a brain injury, the Times-Dispatch said.

The Charlottesville facility had a small capacity, only 10 patients, it’s true. But having a small group of past and present military members in an almost transitional residential setting seemed a sound way to help them deal with TBI. The center even had a program where 25 local businesses would allow the patients to volunteer for them to get experience in what it is like to work in the real world, according to the Times-Dispatch.

That program sometimes ended in jobs for patients.

The Charlottesville center had a $2.4 million budget, and would have needed $4.6 million in tech improvements to attain new Defense Department standards.

Although the services that Charlottesville offer are “provided elsewhere,” it may not be easy for Virginia vets and service members with TBI to get to them, as Sen. Timothy Kaine said in a statement to the Times-Dispatch.

He voiced “serious concerns” about the center’s closing, “particularly the burden it may place on area veterans who need care immediately or are unable to travel great distances each time they have an appointment … This is another example of why it’s critical for Congress to find a meaningful budget resolution that preserves important facilities and programs such as this one.”

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447