Thousands of potentially misdiagnosed vets fail to get re-tested for TBI

(Source: WGCL)

It was a startling letter.

More than 2,000 veterans in our region, and nearly 25,000 nationally, were told by the VA that traumatic brain injury (TBI) exams were mishandled over an eight year period from 2007 to 2015.

Unqualified doctors resulted in possible misdiagnosis and disability compensation claims that may have been unfairly denied.

"It's the VA that dropped the ball, not the veteran," said Dina Titus (D-Nevada) in a congressional hearing shortly after the discovery was made public.

"It took the VA two years to take action to fix the problem or address the issue. Now that's two years on top of the four years it took them to recognize it was a problem," she says.

The CBS46 Bulldog found that the Atlanta region ranked as the second-highest in the nation for those affected, according to VA data.

Vets had one year to get re-diagnosed and that deadline has since passed. We wanted to know how many actually made it to a new doctor and got the help they needed, and how many may still be living with the unknown.

What we learned was disturbing. More than a third of those re-tested appear to have been truly misdiagnosed as feared. Of those, nearly 25,000 vets nationally are in need of re-testing, and only 1,940 responded to the VA's letter. And only 1,494 have actually been re-tested.

A total of 497 saw a change in their TBI evaluation. The vast majority, 433, saw an increase in their diagnosis.

TBI is caused by trauma to the brain and can be mild or serious. It is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. It's often difficult to detect, making the credentials of the specialist doing the testing that much more important.

In the year since its outreach, the VA appears to have done little to change the shocking lack of response to its re-testing plea. The VA, of course, can't force patients to seek new treatment. But surely more can be done to make sure all those potentially affected are properly tested.

We took that question to legislators in Washington. We are also hearing from veterans in the area with stories to tell about this, and their experiences with the VA in general.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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