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Rep. Pascrell Questions DOD Secretary Hagel on TBI Testing in Military


Hagel testifies before House Budget Committee on National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

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Transcript of testimony:

Rep. Pascrell: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your service to our country.  Let's get to the crux of the issue that Mr. Yarmuth has touched upon.  Having been co-chair of the Traumatic Brain Injury Task Force for the last 14 years, I am very concerned how the DOD, before you got there, handled the situation with 1 of out 5 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom are estimated to experience a possible traumatic brain injury.  The Congress has done, I believe, a yeoman's task in educating the DOD. We've continued in a bipartisan basis to emphasize the importance of this issue and have made funds available for the identification and treatment of brain injuries in our soldiers.

In 2007 Congress gave the Department of Defense $900 million to increase access, treatment, and research for traumatic brain injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

In 2008, my colleagues and I put in place protections for the troops in the FY2008 National Defense Authorization bill, requiring cognitive screenings of soldiers pre-deployment and post-deployment.  We do that for football players going on the field in high school, and soccer players, and tennis players and we did not do that for our troops.  We said we were going to do it by an act of Congress.

Evidence seems to point to the fact that this law has yet to be fulfilled as members of the Armed Forces still have not been consistently given a post-deployment cognitive screening in order to identify any possible brain injury.

What are you doing to ensure that service members are receiving consistent pre and post deployment cognitive screening as Congress has required by law?

Secretary Hagel: Congressman, I can tell you I've been at the DOD a little more than three months now, and this is as high a priority as we have.  We have a lot of high priorities - getting the sexual assault scourge dealt with, an entire inventory. This one though is as high up as we have.  I have instructed all of our leaders, all of our people, all of our programs to make this a priority.  We are doing that, we are committed to do it, I know we haven't done it all, I know we are behind, I know we need to do more. But you have my assurance and my commitment that this will continue to be done.

General Dempsey: If I could add Congressman, I've deployed three times and in the units under my command there's been a full accounting for that legislation, meaning we are screening pre and post, and I'll go back and answer your question more fully for the record. But we've done other things with the money you've given us. We've hired 12,000 healthcare professionals, we've been directed to go back and re-screen cases that were previously closed and we are about on average about 90 percent complete with that effort. So I think we are doing better than you just reported, but let me prove it.

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