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Lawmakers push DoD to put more energy into studying traumatic brain injuries

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Virginia lawmakers are calling for continued funding to support a collaborative nationwide research consortium focused on military combat exposure to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

In a letter to the Defense Health Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the lawmakers urged the agencies to continue funding the initiative ahead of the end of the current grant funding cycle to improve the public health outcomes and quality of life of our service members and veterans.

The lawmakers include Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan and Reps. Don Beyer, Ben Cline, Gerry Connolly, Jennifer Kiggans, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Abigail Spanberger, Jennifer Wexton and Rob Wittman, who sent their letter on Tuesday.

“We understand the grant funding will expire after an extension in the next fiscal year. As the Department begins to evaluate whether to consider a new cycle of grant applications, we write to highlight the successes of the existing grant and express our strong support for the continuation of such programs,” the lawmakers wrote. “The recent series of articles in The New York Times analyzing the potential of brain injuries caused by repetitive, low-level blasts experienced in today’s warfare demonstrates why this long-standing research consortium and its invaluable work should continue. Too often, these injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat effectively, which adversely impacts our service members’ and veterans’ quality of life.”

The Department of Defense (DoD) and the VA have funded research into TBIs for over a decade. This includes a $50 million investment in the Long-Term Impact of Military Relevant Brain Injury Consortium (LIMBIC), a nationwide team led by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) consisting of 100 researchers in 19 states, 16 universities, 15 VA Medical Centers, and 9 DoD facilities.

“To date, the DoD and VA’s investments built the world’s largest, ongoing, prospective longitudinal cohort of 3,000 combat-exposed service members and veterans. It also curated the world’s largest mega-administrative dataset of more than 2.5 million unique service members and veterans with TBI and combat-related co-morbid conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pain, depression, and anxiety,” continued the lawmakers. “This collaborative research linking VA/DoD Big Data with a nationwide sample of more than 3,000 regularly re-evaluated service members and veterans will empower us to more rapidly identify risk factors, define recovery patterns, and implement effective diagnostics and treatments that produce clinically meaningful improvements.”

“LIMBIC funding to-date has resulted in improved interventions for our servicemembers and veterans suffering from TBI and related conditions,” Dr. David X. Cifu, Principal Investigator of LIMBIC and Associate Dean of Innovation and System Integration at the VCU School of Medicine. “But there is still more work to be done. We are grateful for the representatives’ advocacy in support of continued funding for this critical research.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.