An evaluation of the Veterans Affairs traumatic brain injury screening process among Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans

Charlesnika T Evans, Justin R St Andre, Theresa L-B Pape, Monica L Steiner, Kevin T Stroupe, Timothy P Hogan, Frances M Weaver, Bridget M Smith
PM & R: the Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation 2013, 5 (3): 210-20; quiz 220

OBJECTIVE: To describe the early results of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) screening program for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and to identify patient and facility characteristics associated with receiving a TBI screen and results of the screening.

DESIGN: National retrospective cohort study.

SETTING: VA Medical facilities.

PATIENTS: A total of 170,681 Operation Enduring Freedom and/or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) Veterans who sought care at VA medical facilities from April 2007 to September 30, 2008.

METHODS: Data were abstracted from VA administrative and operational databases, including patient demographics, facility characteristics, and outcomes.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: The main outcomes were receipt of and results of the TBI screen.

RESULTS: The majority of veterans eligible received the TBI screen (91.6%). Screening rates varied by patient and facility characteristics. In all, 25% of screened veterans had probable TBI exposure, in which the majority of the exposures were blasts (85.0%). The rate of a positive TBI screen was 20.5% for the screened cohort. Male gender, service in the army, multiple deployments, and mental health diagnoses in the previous year were associated with a positive screen.

CONCLUSIONS: TBI screening rates are high in VA; concomitant mental health diagnoses were highly prevalent in individuals with positive TBI screens. These data indicate that there will be a significant need for long-term health care services for veterans with TBI symptomatology.

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