Castor on funding for veterans’ health care

02/11/08 Seán Kinane
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When the Defense Authorization Act passed two weeks ago, it included $450-million for the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) of veterans.

A press conference today publicized this new funding which could be used to treat veterans with TBI at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

Traumatic Brain Injury is considered the signature injury of the U.S. war on Iraq because of the shocking number of returning veterans who have positive screening tests for TBI. That could be as many as 30,000 of the troops currently serving in Iraq, according to Dr. Steven Scott, who is chief of rehab and physical therapy at Haley.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatee counties, is a member of the Armed Services Committee. That committee successfully included language in the 2008 Defense Authorization Act providing the $450-million for TBI treatment.

“Here at the Haley VA Center in Tampa, we are one of four polytrauma centers in the country that takes care of the most critically wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. ... I was able to include in the Defense Bill last year, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, a new collaborative effort between the University of South Florida College of Medicine and the researchers here at the Haley VA to tackle this terrible signature wound of the war in Iraq and help the families, help the soldiers, help them with long-term treatment.”

The number of veterans returning from the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI could actually be higher than estimated. That’s in part because some soldiers may be reluctant to report their injuries.

Stephen Klasko is the vice president of the Health Science Center at USF and dean of the College of Medicine. He told WMNF that the partnership between USF and the Haley VA’s polytrauma center should make the area competitive to receive funding for research, treatment and education.

WMNF spoke with a wheelchair-bound veteran who wished to remain anonymous. He is a paraplegic due to injuries he sustained in Vietnam, where he was stationed from 1968 through 1970.

He said services for injured veterans could be improved. He travels 45-50 miles each way from home to the Haley VA Medical Center two to three times per week.

Learn more:

Rep. Kathy Castor

National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008

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