Murray wants VA ready to deal with more brain injuries
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sen. Patty Murray says that many soldiers with traumatic brain injuries have yet to seek treatment for a wound that likely will require many years of treatment.
"This is going to have a huge impact on the VA, and we need to make sure we find these men and women and get them care not just for a day, but for a lifetime," Murray, a Democrat who is the state's senior senator, said after a Friday morning visit to the polytrauma clinic at the Puget Sound VA Health Care System on Beacon Hill.
Iraq's roadside bombings, with their powerful concussive forces, have caused widespread brain injuries among soldiers. Moreover, some soldiers who survived such blasts may not be aware that mood changes, memory problems and other issues may reflect a brain injury.
Murray said that the Puget Sound VA has seen a dramatic increase in the number of brain injuries over the past year but the polytrauma clinic has sufficient staff to handle the patients.
The biggest shortage of VA services remains in smaller communities where many of these injured veterans return to heal.
The VA now maintains three levels of polytrauma clinics — with level one offering the highest level of care for the most acutely injured. The Seattle clinic is a level two, while the smaller clinics are level three.
In an emergency supplemental bill that was sent to President Bush, Murray successfully pushed to add an extra $4 billion that would, partially, be used to increase funding for the smaller clinics.
Murray said the money also would be used to add more staff to help soldiers who are going through a military medical-retirement process due to injuries or illness.
Bush has said he would veto the emergency supplemental bill because it ties Iraq war funding to withdrawal dates for U.S. troops.
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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