Pentagon Ignores Congressional Order on Brain Tests for Returning Troops

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Department of Defense was told by Congress in 2008 to administer tests to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in order to check for possible brain injuries. But more than half a million troops have not received such screening upon coming home because U.S. Army medical leaders say the tests are unreliable.

“This is a total failure,” said Representative Bill Pascrell (D-New Jersey), co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. “We’re failing to find TBI (traumatic brain injury) and post-traumatic stress disorder in an era when the military is trying to find and assist folks who need it.”
The Army’s surgeon general, Lieutenant General Eric Schoomaker, described the brain assessment test as being no better than a “coin flip” because of its high rate of false positives. Tresa Roebuck-Spencer, a neuropsychologist with the University of Oklahoma, which developed the testing program, took exception to the criticism, saying the test is designed only to alert doctors that there may be a problem so they can conduct further evaluation.
According to Government Executive, “Mild TBI can be deceptive, because it often occurs without any outward signs of trauma. A soldier can recover completely from mild TBI, but left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to serious impairment over time, especially if the individual is exposed to additional blasts later on.”
The U.S. Air Force reportedly began a study to compare different testing methods for diagnosing brain injuries, but that effort was never completed.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Military Fails on Brain-Test Follow-Ups (by Gregg Zoroya, USA Today)
Study Raises Questions about Military's Brain Injury Assessment Tool (by Katherine McIntire Peters, Government Executive)


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