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ARLINGTON, Va. — Veterans can be evaluated as 100 percent disabled for traumatic brain injury if they meet certain criteria, said Tom Pamperin, of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since October 2001, about 1.64 million U.S. servicemembers have deployed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, of which about 320,000 have reported suffering a traumatic brain injury while downrange, according to an April study from the RAND Corp.

Until now, veterans with TBI could receive a 100 percent disability rating only if they also suffered from other wounds, said Pamperin, deputy director of compensation and pension service.

But a new VA policy allows veterans with TBI to be rated as totally disabled based solely the severity of the disorder, he said.

The policy establishes eight criteria used to determine if a veteran suffering from TBI are totally disabled:

- Memory, attention and concentration

- Judgment

- Orientation in time and space

- Motor activity

- Visual spatial function

- Speech and language disorders

- Consciousness

- Neurobehavioral effects

Veterans with TBI who are rated as totally disabled can also receive extra money for "aid and attendance," Pamperin said. Under the change, monthly benefits for a single veteran would increase from $2,527 to $3,145.

The policy also establishes two other criteria used to determine the severity of TBI: social interaction, which has a disability rating of up to 70 percent; and subjective symptoms, which has a rating of up to 40 percent, officials said.

Subjective symptoms, which are difficult for a clinician to assess, include memory loss, dizziness, irritability, and hypersensitivity to light and noise, Pamperin said. They are typical of mild cases of TBI.

Previously, veterans showing subjective symptoms could receive a disability rating of up to 10 percent, or about $117 in monthly benefits for single veterans, Pamperin said. The new policy allows veterans exhibiting such symptoms to receive up to $512 in monthly benefits.

The policy was expected to be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday and slated to take effect 30 days later, Pamperin said.

The new policy is not retroactive, but veterans can be re-evaluated for a higher disability rating by going to a local VA clinic, he said.


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