STRUTHERS, OH — With nearly 300,000 American veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and another 25,000 veterans facing mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBI), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced a bill to make it easier for veterans with war-related injuries to claim benefits. He was joined by Michael Fairman, an Ohio combat veteran whose experiences in the military helped establish the legislation.
“When veterans seek claims for war-related injuries like post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, the burden for establishing the connection should be on the Department of Defense, not on the veteran,” said Brown, the first Ohioan to serve a full term on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “When Mr. Fairman, an Ohio combat veteran, shared the frustrations many veterans face in filing claims, I knew we could do better. The SET Act will ensure that the Department of Defense does a better job at tracking significant events so that retired service members have full records of their service upon seeking the benefits they’ve earned at the VA.”
When service members are exposed to significant events – like a roadside bombing – these events may later be connected to “invisible injuries.” These injuries – including PTS – leave no physical scar but can still necessitate treatment and assistance from the VA. There are nearly 300,000 American veterans struggling with PTS. An estimated 300,000 American veterans also struggle with TBI, 25,000 of whom are thought to have sustained mTBI specifically. While the Department of Defense (DoD) currently records and reports significant events for every military unit, the events are not transferred to the files of individual members of that unit.
When veterans file compensation and disability claims, or seek medical care, for an injury related to a significant exposure during their service, they must provide supporting documentation to support the claim. This includes written testimony from another service member who witnessed the accident, relevant medical documentation, or military orders that prove the veteran was in a unit or location. These types of documentation however provide only a secondary account of the claim and may not fully illustrate the veteran’s claim of service-connected PTS and mTBI.
The Significant Event Tracker (SET) Act would ensure that unit commanders document events that individual service members are exposed to which might later be connected to PTS, mTBI, or other injuries. The DoD would then furnish these Significant Event entries to the VA to ensure better treatment for veterans and faster processing of claims. The SET Act would allow unit commanders and their delegates to report unit and individual exposures to traumatic events. By creating an individualized SET, injuries that are not currently documented through physical injuries, awards, or other service-related means will now be included on an individual’s medical history.
Brown announced the legislation during a visit today to VFW Post #3538. He was joined by Fairman, who struggles with PTS himself; Anthony Kennedy, a Youngstown State University student and veteran who has also struggled with the disease; and James Dill, the Commander of VFW Post #3538.