Ten veterans with brain damage have been discharged from group homes and are being sent to nursing homes, veterans homes or to family members because Congress has not extended what is being hailed as a “successful” pilot program caring for these vets. Dozens of other veterans face a similar fate in September if no action is taken.

In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, North Dakota National Guard Sgt. 1st. Class Tim Wicks is seen in Bismarck, N.D. Wicks spent 17 days in a coma with a traumatic brain injury after he was critically wounded by an improvised explosive device in 2006 in Afghanistan. Back home he was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. A study by the Congressional Research Service, the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that at least 20 percent of the 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD and/or depression. (AP/Bismarck Tribune, Mike McCleary)

In this Dec. 19, 2013 photo, North Dakota National Guard Sgt. 1st. Class Tim Wicks is seen in Bismarck, N.D. Wicks spent 17 days in a coma with a traumatic brain injury after he was critically wounded by an improvised explosive device in 2006 in Afghanistan. Back home he was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. With up to 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan thought to have TBIs, the VA is figuring out the most effective method for treating them. A partnership with civilian, specialized facilities was one such method. (AP/Bismarck Tribune, Mike McCleary)

The Wall Street Journal reported that the rehabilitation program. specifically for those suffering from brain injuries, is set to expire in October unless lawmakers take action, but some veterans are already feeling the effects.

“I’m doing great, and they’re going to yank it from me,” Don Rohm, who might have to leave the home where he resides in New Jersey, told the Journal. “God only knows what’s going to happen.”

“It’s only a matter of time before I end up in jail or dead,” he said, weeping, according to the Journal.

The brain-injury rehabilitation facilities are privately run with staff that has special training in the physical, speech and cognitive needs of patients with such conditions.

“The failure to extend this successful pilot would close a door to recently injured individuals who need these services and risk having to transfer wounded veterans to more costly and inappropriate environments of care,” several veterans advocacy groups wrote to lawmakers earlier this month, according to the Journal.

The Wounded Warrior Project, one of the letter’s signatories, on its website explained that even VA facilities might not be equipped well enough to handle the needs of vets with brain injuries:

It is all too common for families — reliant on VA to help a loved one recover after sustaining a severe TBI — to be told that the VA can no longer provide a particular service because the veteran is no longer making significant progress. It is clear that ongoing rehabilitation is often needed to maintain function, 154 and many veterans denied maintenance therapy will regress, losing cognitive, physical and other gains made during earlier rehabilitation. For this generation of young veterans,reintegration into their communities and pursuing life goals such as meaningful employment, interpersonal relationships, marriage, and independent living may be as important as (if not more than) their medical recovery. While improving and maintaining physical and cognitive function is paramount to social functioning, many aspects of community reintegration cannot be achieved solely through medical services.  Other models of rehabilitative care provide support for community integration through such non-medical assistance as life-skills coaching, supported employment, and community-reintegration therapy.  But while such supports afford opportunities for gaining greater independence, VA medical facilities often deny requests to provide these “non-medical” supports.

Since 2000, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center has recorded more than 300,000 members of the U.S. military with a traumatic brain injury.  It is estimated that between 10 to 20 percent of veterans who served in Iraq have TBI.

As a result, this pilot program is one of the many efforts the government started to evaluate effective ways to rehabilitate veterans suffering from these injuries. The Journal noted that the VA has not yet fully assessed the program, but based on anecdotal evidence, it seems to be working.

“All indications are that the satisfaction is high among the veterans with the services they’re receiving, and they seem to be making gains,” Sharon Benedict, who manages the program at the VA, told the Journal.

According to NeuroRestorative, one of the pilot program’s facilities, this was the first time the VA contracted with civilian services for brain injury rehabilitation.

(H/T: The Wire)

Front page image via Shutterstock.