VA admits unqualified doctors performed brain injury exams on veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Aug. 7 acknowledged that it violated VA policy by having unqualified medical personnel perform diagnostic exams for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

The erroneous exams resulted in some local veterans being denied TBI benefits. There were more than 300 veterans involved, although the exact number of veterans who may have been denied benefits because of the exams was not known. The affected veterans have been asked to return for new evaluations conducted by medical specialists.

After the TBI examination problems were reported, VA Public Affairs officer Ralph Heussner said in a written statement, “The Minneapolis VA Compensation and Pension Unit did conduct some initial TBI evaluations with providers who were not specialists in one of the four prescribed specialty areas.”

“We have contacted veterans affected by this issue to schedule and complete a repeat initial TBI examination by a medical specialist in neurology, psychiatry, neurosurgery or physical medicine and rehabilitation,” Heussner said.

Since at least 2010, the Minneapolis VA has been violating VA rules about the types of specialists required to make an initial diagnosis for veterans who may have a TBI. A VA training manual and forms used by VA Compensation and Pension examiners state that only physiatrists, psychiatrists, neurosurgeons and neurologists can make an initial TBI diagnosis. Once a TBI is diagnosed, the veteran must undergo a neuropsychological assessment specific to TBI to determine the impact of the brain injury.

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