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VA rule would consider 5 disabilities connected to brain injury

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Parkinson's disease, seizures, dementia, depression and hormone deficiency would count as service-connected disabilities under a rule the Veterans Affairs Department proposed Dec. 10 for veterans who have also suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Veterans can receive benefits for service-connected injuries and diseases, and by law, if a condition is established as secondary to a service-connected disability, it counts as part of the original condition.

Parkinson's and unprovoked seizures would count if they follow moderate or severe traumatic brain injury. After moderate or severe TBI, dementia manifest within 15 years, depression within 3 years, or certain hormone deficiencies within 12 months would also count as service-connected.

In the case of mild TBI, depression manifest within 12 months would also qualify.

VA classifies TBI as mild, moderate or severe based on a variety of factors, but not all the criteria for a certain level have to be met for VA to consider the injury to be at the level. The factors are structural imaging of the brain, loss of consciousness, altered mental state, amnesia, and how the injury rates on the Glasgow Coma Scale.

Those symptoms must be evaluated at the time of injury or shortly thereafter.

The proposed rule wouldn't preclude a decision that a condition is service-connected even it doesn't meet the qualifying severity levels or time limits, though. VA would still be able to decide that individuals' conditions are service connected.

Disability benefits for veterans are paid monthly and tax-free, and those with dependents can receive an additional allowance.

The comment period for the proposed rule lasts until March 8, 2013.

For more:
- go to the proposed rule in the Federal Register

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