Army Policy on Concussions Updated

The U.S. military has been criticized recently -- notably in a June 2010 series from NPR and ProPublica -- for how it has treated soldiers who suffered them during service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has sent a message to commanders throughout the force to reinforce new policies designed to minimize the effects of mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), commonly known as concussions, the Military Health System (MHS) reported Tuesday. Battlefield explosions may cause them, and the U.S. military has been criticized recently -- notably in a June 2010 series from NPR and ProPublica -- for how it has treated soldiers who suffered them during service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The policies require any soldier who sustains a direct blow to the head or loss of consciousness; is within 50 meters of a blast (inside or outside); is in a vehicle associated with a blast event, collision, or rollover; is dismounted within 50 meters of a blast; or is in a building or vehicle damaged by a blast/accident to undergo a medical evaluation, followed by 24 hours of downtime and medical clearance before returning to duty. Comprehensive medical evaluations are mandatory for anyone sustaining three concussions within 12 months.

The MHS news release says research has shown concussions are "overwhelmingly treatable. Receiving prompt care, regardless of the severity of injury, is the key to regaining the highest functional level possible," it adds.

"I want to reinforce the need to fully implement and adhere to this mTBI management program," Casey said. "We are completing our ninth year at war, and our force is stretched by the cumulative effects of the last nine years. Effectively managing our fighters is essential to our long-term success in this war. That is what this program is about."

MHS is a global DoD medical network with 59 hospitals, 364 health clinics, and a $50 billion budget serving 9.6 million service members, veterans, and family members.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it has approved $2.8 million to fund three new research projects about various illnesses affecting veterans who served in the Gulf War, 1990-1991. "Reaching out to Gulf War veterans is essential to the transformation of VA," said Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff John R. Gingrich. "This research is a great opportunity to do something that will improve the care and services these veterans have earned." According to VA, about 697,000 men and women served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 to June 1991 during the Gulf War.

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