Law To Ensure Health Benefits For Sole Survivor Veterans

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President Bush on Friday signed into law legislation (HR 5825, S 2874) that will guarantee health benefits for "sole survivor" veterans who receive honorable discharges, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the Department of Defense "sole survivor" policy, the military cannot deploy in combat areas soldiers who lose all their siblings in war and must issue them honorable discharges upon request. However, veterans who previously received honorable discharges under the policy lost their health benefits because they did not fulfill their service contracts.

Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) sponsored the legislation, which will cost about $1 million over the next 10 years. The Senate and House approved it by voice vote (Dizikes, Los Angeles Times, 8/30).

Letters to the Editor

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The New York Times on Sunday published several letters to the editor on concerns about brain injuries among veterans. Summaries of two of the letters appear below.

* Jamshin Ghajar: Brain injuries among veterans are a "signature issue" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, although "tests to detect them are limited, ... there is hopeful news on the horizon," Ghajar, president of the Brain Trauma Foundation, writes. According to Ghajar, traumatic brain injury is a "condition that has been historically difficult to detect," but the foundation has begun to develop a "hand-held eye-tracking device that will enable military personnel to determine within seconds -- on the battlefield -- if a soldier has been subjected to a traumatic brain injury." He concludes, "This important new technology will allow for even faster and more appropriate treatment and, ultimately, better outcomes for the thousands of men and women serving our country on the front lines" (Ghajar, New York Times, 9/1).

* Marc Dichter: Post-traumatic epilepsy is "frequently unrecognized, but eminently treatable," side effect of TBI, and professionals in the "epilepsy care community have been very concerned that veterans" with "subtle" cases of the condition can "'fall through the cracks' of medical care," Dichter, a professor of neurology and pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, writes in a Times letter to the editor. According to Dichter, symptoms of post-traumatic epilepsy can develop "months or even years after the inciting trauma." He adds that the American Epilepsy Society has established the Operation Giveback task force, of which he is a member, "to increase awareness of this condition among veterans, their families" and the Department of Veterans Affairs; to "provide educational materials via the society's Web site; and to support enhanced epilepsy services to our injured veterans" (Dichter, New York Times, 9/1).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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