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Brain Injury Association of America Legislative Update

Here is the most recent legislative update from the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) who deserves our thanks for all of their efforts on behalf of individuals with brain injury and their families

TBI Act Reauthorization

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), lead by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) approved the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Reauthorization Act of 2014 as part of a package of bipartisan bills. S.2539 was introduced by Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

First enacted in 1996, the TBI Act is the only federal law that authorizes agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct research and public education programs and to administer grants to states and protection and advocacy organizations to improve service system access and coordination for the 2.4 million civilians who sustain traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. each year.

The authorization bill includes an increased focus on brain injury management in children and gives the HHS Secretary discretion to determine which agency within the department will administer the grant program for states and protection and advocacy organizations.

The United States Senate is likely to vote on the bill next week before Congress breaks for August recess. The House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the TBI Act in a floor vote on June 24, 2014. BIAA thanks Sens. Harkin, Alexander, Casey and Hatch for their leadership in reauthorizing the TBI Act.

Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veteran with TBI Extension Act

Sens. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Extension Act, S.2607. The AL-TBI Extension Act authorizes the continuation of a critical VA program that provides intensive care and rehabilitation to veterans with complex brain injuries. AL-TBI consists of community-based residential/transitional rehabilitation programs around the country in which veterans are immersed in therapies for movement, memory, speech, and gradual community reintegration. This model of care allows veterans facing similar challenges to live together while receiving 24/7 care, which has yielded impressive results and helped rehabilitate hundreds of veterans from severe injuries that are notoriously difficult to treat.

AL-TBI began as a five-year pilot program established in the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act. Although it took the Department of Veterans Affairs over two years to implement the pilot program, the program-which has been operational for only three years-will expire this year if Congress does not act. The VA has stopped admitting new veterans into the program. If the program is allowed to expire, the VA will have to discharge veterans in the program even if they have not had the full benefits of this model of care. In fact, the VA will begin discontinuing services for at least half of those in the program in mid-September. The VA has indicated it will carry out individual transition plans for veterans currently enrolled in the pilot, but it offers no alternatives that replicate the AL-TBI's model of residential, community-based treatment.

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