From 2007 to 2015, the VA evaluated over 24,000 veterans for their traumatic brain injury (TBI) claims using physicians unqualified to evaluate TBI. This revelation came to light after an investigation by a news team in Minneapolis, KARE 11, found that as many as 300 veterans at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center were denied benefits based on unqualified examinations. The KARE 11 team found that only one out of every 21 medical professionals who conducted the initial TBI examination was a qualified specialist, which includes psychiatrists, physiatrists, neurosurgeons, and neurologists. The majority of TBI claims in Minneapolis were done using physicians outside of those categories.
Shocking though the KARE 11 team’s discovery was, the Minneapolis VA Medical Center only represented the tip of the iceberg. After the KARE 11 investigation, the VA announced it would review all cases involving veterans with improper exams. As the VA investigated, the number swelled far beyond the mere 300 discovered in Minneapolis.
In June of 2016, the VA began sending letters to each of the 24,000 veterans evaluated by unqualified personnel, offering them new exams. What should a veteran do if they receive one of these letters? There is no one right answer. It depends on the situation.
If a veteran receives one of these letters, but they are happy with their evaluation for TBI, they should do nothing. Nothing in this offer requires veterans to schedule an examination. According to deputy undersecretary for disability assistance at the VA, Dave McLenachen, more than 14,000 of the affected veterans are receiving benefits for their TBI. If they believe have been compensated fairly, they should take no action. Scheduling an examination might result in a lower TBI evaluation.
However, if a veteran gets one of these letters and their TBI disability rating is either zero or lower than they believe to be correct, that veteran should consider taking the VA up on their offer for another examination. It can only help, especially with those rated at a zero percent evaluation. For tips on how to prepare for such an evaluation, see this blog post from February 2, 2016.