WASHINGTON – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert
McDonald has granted equitable relief to more than 24,000 Veterans following a
national review of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) medical examinations conducted
in connection with disability compensation claims processed between 2007 and
This action by the Secretary allows the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer new TBI examinations to Veterans whose initial
examination for TBI was not conducted by one of four designated medical
specialists and provides them with the opportunity to have their claims
reprocessed. Equitable relief is a unique legal remedy that allows the Secretary
to correct an injustice to a claimant where VA is not otherwise authorized to do
so within the scope of the law.
“Traumatic Brain Injury is a signature injury in Veterans
returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and VA is proud to be an
organization that sets the bar high for supporting these, and all, Veterans,”
said Secretary McDonald. “Providing support for Veterans suffering from a TBI is
a priority and a privilege, and we must make certain they receive a just and
fair rating for their disabilities.”
To ensure that TBI is properly evaluated for disability
compensation purposes, VA developed a policy in 2007 requiring that one of four
specialists – a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon or neurologist –
complete TBI exams when VA does not have a prior diagnosis.
Since 2007, medicine around TBI has been a rapidly
evolving science. VA designated particular specialists to conduct initial TBI
exams because they have the most experience with the symptoms and effects of
TBI. As more research became available, VA issued a number of guidance documents
that may have created confusion regarding the policy. VA has confirmed that its
TBI policy guidance is now clear and being followed.
“We let these Veterans down,” Secretary McDonald said.
“That is why we are taking every step necessary to grant equitable relief to
those affected to ensure they receive the full benefits to which they are
VA understands the importance of an accurate exam to
support Veterans’ disability claims. The Secretary’s decision to grant relief
will enable VA to take action on any new examinations without requiring Veterans
to submit new claims. If additional benefits are due, VA will award an effective
date as early as the date of the initial TBI claim.
VA will contact Veterans identified as part of this
national TBI review to offer them an opportunity to receive a new examination
and have their claims reprocessed. More than 13,000 of these affected Veterans
are already receiving service-connected compensation benefits for TBI at a
10-percent disability evaluation or higher, which means that the diagnosis has
already been established.