Veterans Outreach Program
WHAT IS OPERATION OUTREACH?
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimates that Improvised Explosive Devices account for two-thirds of combat injuries during the Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) wars. Operation Outreach is an awareness campaign educating combat veterans on the correlation between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) developing epilepsy. According to studies, up to 34% of TBI patients are at risk of developing epilepsy; that number can be higher among populations experiencing penetrating head wounds (Annegers & Coan 2000). The risk of developing epilepsy increases with the severity of the TBI.
Operation Outreach informs veterans and their families of the possibilities of developing epilepsy as a result of a traumatic brain injury, educates on seizure recognition, directs veterans to health care providers, informs medical and case workers through a curriculum written by epilepsy and brain injury specialists, and offers support to military families and veterans through partnerships with other community organizations.
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY AND POST TRAUMATIC EPILEPSY
TBI in the Military
Personnel with wartime injuries have a higher incidence of missile wounds and blast injuries, both of which may cause severe impairments.
TBI disrupts the normal function of the brain and is caused by a bump, blow, jolt, exposure to loud noise or a penetrating head injury. The majority of TBIs experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan are due to blast-related injury.
TBI may lead to post traumatic epilepsy (PTE), a seizure disorder.
Post Traumatic Epilepsy is also often associated with:
- Skull fractures
- Subdural hematomas (accumulation of blood between the brain and the skull, caused by a ruptured blood vessel)
- Intracranial hematomas/hemorrhages
- Brain contusion (bruise)
EMPLOYMENT AND MILTARY SERVICE
Today, people with epilepsy are working at thousands of different kinds of jobs. While most of these people have excellent seizure control, not all of them do.
Having occasional (or even fairly frequent) seizures may make your job hunt more difficult, but not impossible. People with epilepsy can face significant challenges in the workplace, and there are many efforts to increase employment of people with epilepsy and their success rates in the workplace.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) were enacted to prohibit disability-based discrimination, including discrimination by employers or potential employers. These laws have particular impact on people with epilepsy who face issues like safety-sensitive jobs and reasonable accommodation.
Continued Military Service
Although there are many laws now that protect individuals with disabilities, the armed services are not required to follow them. The military is exempt from the mandates of non-discrimination imposed by the civil rights laws of the federal government.
Department of Defense (DoD) requires readiness for worldwide service at any time, with few limitations. Assignments may be made to areas where medical facilities are nonexistent or inadequately equipped to treat specific disorders. Although there are provisions for retaining members who develop a medical condition that prohibits them from being assigned to such areas, the size of this population must be kept as small as possible to prevent an inability to deploy personnel in the event of a military emergency.
COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR SERVICE MEMBERS AND VETERANS
TRICARE is the health care program serving active-duty Service members, National Guard and Reserve members, retirees, their families, survivors and certain former spouses worldwide.
To be eligible for TRICARE benefits, you must be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). The benefits you are entitled to and how you access them will depend upon your status as an active-duty, National Guard, Reserve, or retired Service member. If you are separated, but not retired, you may still be entitled to some TRICARE benefits. It is important that you speak with your regional managed care contractor or MTF TRICARE Service Center or benefit counselor for more information. Visit the TRICARE website “Plan Wizard” atwww.tricare.mil/mybenefit for more information.
You may call the DEERS Support Office at 1-800-538-9552 (TTY/TTD: 1-866-363-2883) if you have questions about your eligibility status in their system. However, this office cannot determine your eligibility; your unit personnel office enters that information into DEERS.
Disability Evaluation System (DES) Process
When you suffer a wound, illness, or injury, the doctors and staff of an appropriate medical facility will treat you. For many members, this is the end of the process if they are cured of the disease or fully recover from their wound or injury. For a small number of members, a wound, illness, or injury can result in a permanent condition that may make them unfit for continued duty in their current job. If you suffer a permanent or long-lasting effect from a wound, illness, or injury, the doctor will refer you to the DES.
Generally, the steps are:
- Evaluate Service member’s fitness for duty.
- Authorize a return to duty for those members who are found fit.
- Approve disability separations or retirements, to include making a benefits determination, for those Service members who are found unfit.
Pay and Allowances
Depending on the outcome of the DES, you may receive compensation from the government. Pay and allowances may include:
- Severance pay
- Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL) pay
- Permanent Disability Retired List (PDRL) pay
- Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC)
- Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP)
- Access to special/partial/casual pays
- Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)
- Pay and Allowance Continuation (PAC)
- Travel for your family
- Family Separation Allowance (FSA)
- Hardship Duty Pay Location (HDP-L)
- Hostile Fire Pay/Imminent Danger Pay (HFP/IDP)
- Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE)
- Savings Deposit Program (SDP)
- Veterans Administration (VA) Benefits
VA offers a host of programs that you may be eligible for, depending on your situation. A few of the programs you might be eligible for include:
- VA Health Care
- Disability Compensation
- Increased Compensation Based on Unemployability
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
- Traumatic Injury Protection Payment (TSGLI)
- SGLI Disability Extension
- Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
- Service-Disabled Veterans Insurance (S-DVI) and Supplemental S-DVI
- Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)
- VA Education Benefits
- Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance
- Vocation and Education Counseling
- Vehicle Purchase and Adaptation
- Housing Adaptation
- Clothing Allowance
VA Vet Centers
Vet Centers offer readjustment counseling – a wide range of services provided to combat veterans in the effort to help them make smooth transitions from military to civilian life. Call these centers toll free during normal business hours at 1-800-905-4675 (Eastern) and 1-866-496-8838 (Pacific). You can locate a Vet Center near you by going to their website at www.vetcenter.va.gov.
Veterans Benefits vs. TRICARE: The VA and TRICARE have some similar benefits, but there are some significant differences as well. It is important for you to understand your benefits under both programs to ensure you choose the health program that best meets your needs. It is highly recommended that, after checking with the VA to determine your benefit eligibility, you also check with TRICARE. You can go to TRICARE.mil and create your own profile to tailor information about your specific benefit needs.
Social Security Benefits
Military Service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security. Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from VA and require a separate application. Social Security pays disability benefits through two programs:
- The Social Security disability insurance program, which pays benefits to Service members and certain family members if you are insured, meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.
- The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which pays benefits based on financial need.
How does military pay affect eligibility for disability benefits? You cannot engage in substantial work activity for pay or profit – also known as substantial gainful activity – and receive disability benefits at the same time.
Active-duty status and receipt of military pay does not, in itself, necessarily prevent payment of disability benefits. Receipt of military payments should never stop you from applying for disability benefits from Social Security. If you are receiving treatment at a military medical facility and working in a designated therapy program or on limited duty, your work activity will be evaluated to determine your eligibility for benefits. The actual work activity is the controlling factor and not the amount of pay you receive or your military duty status.
Brain Injury Association of Arizona
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain
DCoE assesses, validates, oversees and facilitates prevention, resilience, identification, treatment, outreach, rehabilitation, and reintegration programs for psychological health (PH) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) to ensure the Department of Defense meets the needs of the nation’s military communities, warriors and families:
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC)
DVBIC is specifically committed to prevent, treat, and provide education on TBI for US military members currently on active duty, National Guard and reservists recently injured in the line of duty, their dependents and retired military personnel:
National Resource Directory (NRD)
Developed by DoD, the Department of Labor and VA, this website provides information and access to the full range of medical and non-medical services and resources you need to achieve personal and professional goals. You can find the directory at:
Epilepsy-specific information can be researched through the following websites:
National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC):
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS):
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Air Force Palace HART (Helping Airmen Recover Together):
Army Wounded Warrior Program
Marines Wounded Warrior Regiment:
Navy Safe Harbor:
Military One Source: