Veterans Benefits Act Increases Coverage for Traumatic Brain Injury

In October 2010, President Obama signed the Veterans Benefits Act of 2010. The law seeks improvements in various services provided to military veterans, and it especially helps injured veterans by expanding coverage under the Traumatic Injury Protection Under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (TSGLI) program and permitting additional disability compensation for traumatic brain injury.

The Veterans' Benefits Act addresses the needs of veterans in several ways, including:

  • Improving employment opportunities
  • Reducing and preventing homelessness among veterans
  • Increasing insurance limits
  • Prohibiting wage discrimination against members of the armed forces
  • Expanding funeral benefits and plot allowances
  • Bolstering education benefits
  • Supporting research on Gulf War Syndrome and associated illness

In addition, a significant portion of the Act expands insurance coverage for veterans who suffered traumatic injuries while serving by modifying the terms of eligibility for payments under TSGLI. It also authorizes greater disability compensation for veterans with traumatic injuries resulting in residual brain injury or prosthetic use.

TSGLI Insurance for Traumatic Injuries

The Department of Veterans Affairs states that TSGLI coverage is a rider in an addition to Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI). It provides payment to members of the military who are severely injured on or off duty in a traumatic event. TSGLI payments are intended to relieve some of the costs associated with recovery from traumatic injury, but members can use their TSFLI payment or payments any way they choose.

Since the TSGLI program began in 2005, more than $550 million in benefits payments have been made to members of the armed forces for a range of traumatic injuries and losses, including:

  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Burns
  • Loss of sight, hearing or speech

TSGLI also provides benefits for members who are unable to perform daily living activities because of traumatic brain injury.

As of December 1, 2005, every member of the armed forces who purchases SGLI also automatically receives TSGLI coverage. TSGLI coverage is also provided retroactively for members of the military who did not have SGLI coverage the time but experienced severe losses from traumatic injuries incurred between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005 in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Changes to TSGLI Eligibility

The Veterans Benefits Act of 2010 changed the TSGLI provisions so TSGLI coverage will be provided retroactively to all members of the armed forces who suffered qualifying losses from traumatic injuries occurring between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, regardless of where the injuries occurred and regardless of whether the member had SGLI coverage at the time.

This is a significant change from the previous law that only provided coverage for traumatic injuries suffered in the theater of war in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. Under the new law, members of the military may be eligible for TSGLI payments for injuries suffered in non-combat conditions like training or motor vehicle accidents while serving stateside or outside of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Navy.

The expansion of coverage is effective October 1, 2011 and will apply retroactively to injuries suffered from October 7, 2001 to November 30, 2005.

Changes to Disability Compensation for Traumatic Injuries

Section 601 of Title VI of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2010 also expands disability compensation for veterans who suffer traumatic injuries. The new provision states that, if any veteran needs regular aid and attendance for the residuals of traumatic brain injury, he or she shall receive a monthly aid and attendance allowance in additional compensation payable for his or her service-related disability. The change also authorizes higher levels of disability compensation for veterans who have difficulty using prosthetic devices after losing a hand, arm or leg from traumatic injury.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides many valuable programs and benefits to members of the military in exchange for their dedicated service and sacrifice on behalf of our country. From housing assistance to employment training, support is available to help veterans build successful lives at home. For some, though, extensive medical and rehabilitative training is first necessary to recover from traumatic injuries.

If you suffered brain injury or another traumatic injury while serving in the armed forces, you may be entitled to veterans' disability benefits that can help you pay for your medical and rehabilitative care. Contact a knowledgeable attorney with experience in veterans' disability claims to discuss your situation and to learn more about veterans' disability benefits.