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Fighting Here for Care for Brain Injuries Sustained Over There

The battle to get cognitive rehabilitation therapy is a common one waged against insurance companies by victims of traumatic brain injuries and their families.

The battle is fought by the 1.4 million Americans who sustain those brain injuries in car accidents, slips and falls, strokes and other medical crises. What surprises many people about the fight to get cognitive rehabilitation is that our wounded soldiers struggle to get the therapy, too.

National Public Radio reports that scientists and neurologists are clear that the slow, lengthy rehabilitation process pays off in a big way for victims of traumatic brain injuries. In the therapy, the injured relearn eating, counting, cooking, using public transportation and many other aspects of life most people take for granted.

Even the Pentagon agrees that the therapy pays dividends for victims. But the Pentagon's insurer doesn't want to pay for the treatment for soldiers whose lives have been altered by powerful blasts to their heads while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The insurance program covering the nearly four million active members of the military and retirees is Tricare. The problem for GIs with traumatic brain injuries is that Tricare has decided that the rehabilitative therapy hasn't been proven to work.

Last year, 50 brain specialists convened by the military came to a unanimous decision about the therapy: it works. Tricare declined to accept their verdict.

Perhaps the real sticking point with the therapy is its price tag: from $15,000 to $50,000 per recipient.

No one knows exactly how much it would cost Tricare to treat all those soldiers with brain injuries, but NPR says it could be as much as hundreds of millions of dollars, or even billions.

Tricare insists that cost played no role in its decision to decline to pay for cognitive rehabilitative therapy.

And so the fight goes on for these soldiers, and their families, to get the care they need after the country that needed them.

Source: NPR: "Pentagon Plan Won't Cover Brain-Damage Therapy": December 20, 2010

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