Reports of the Minneapolis and Amarillo VA hospitals’ misdiagnosis of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) for veteran patients are disturbing and unacceptable. Over 300 veterans at the Minneapolis VAMC and 70 at the Amarillo VAMC were screened for TBI by an unqualified doctor or by a nurse practitioner. As a result, veterans were misdiagnosed and denied both TBI benefits and treatment.
Since TBI’s are so complex, it is VA policy for an evaluation to be conducted by one of four specialists: neurosurgeons, neurologists, psychiatrists, and physiatrists. Violations of this policy have already been confirmed at the Minneapolis and Amarillo VAMCs; but officials don’t know how widespread this is. Congressional leaders are now calling for the VA to conduct an internal nationwide review while the local news station who first broke the story has filed a Freedom of Information Act asking for information on every veteran who was diagnosed by an unqualified medical examiner.
It’s disappointing that a VA doctor would not have enough respect for the veteran patient, nor for the entire medical field to which he/she belongs, to ensure a proper TBI diagnosis is rendered. This is especially true today, where the concussion epidemic in the NFL has forced brain injuries into the limelight. Yet, certain VA hospitals took shortcuts for the sake of saving time and money. Not only will veterans have been denied compensation and medical treatment, but also left to cope with the misdiagnosis that their issues are just a figment of their imagination. That is a heavy burden to bear alone in our society.
If both TBI’s and sports-related concussions are confirmed to be causes of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), shouldn’t this gross mistreatment of veterans be a bigger story?