Harrisburg, PA (Law Firm Newswire) January 13, 2016 - Many veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but some of them are not being properly diagnosed because of the use of a test by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Consider the case of Army Captain Charles Gatlin, who served as a platoon leader in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2006. A car bomb detonated in close proximity and he was knocked to the ground by the explosion and struck by flying debris. He was evacuated and later diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
Army medical records indicate that throughout the following three years, Captain Gatlin, who had received a Purple Heart, was given several full neuropsychological exams, which revealed that he was afflicted with “persistent frontal lobe dysfunction” in conjunction with processing speed deficits and considerable attention problems. As a result of the severity of his injuries, he was compelled to retire from the Army.
Prominent Pennsylvania elder care and disability planning attorney Marielle Hazen said, “Veterans are often denied the benefits to which they are entitled. A veterans’ benefits attorney understands the rules and regulations that control veterans’ benefits, and can help veterans and their spouses with any claims before the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
In 2009, he underwent a final Army exam, which determined that since it was already three years since he was injured, his neurological deficiencies were likely to be stable and permanent. Captain Gatlin retired with a 70 percent disability due to his TBI. When he and his wife moved to Missoula, Montana, Captain Gatlin was informed that in order to be eligible for veterans’ benefits, he had to be re-evaluated at the VA facility.
According to medical records, a VA staff psychologist named Dr. Robert Bateen disregarded the Army’s more comprehensive tests, and used a brief screening tool referred to as an RBANS to assess Captain Gatlin. The Army captain said that he was examined by Bateen for 20 minutes, at which point the doctor made a determination. Bateen used the RBANS test to arrive at the conclusion that Captain Gatlin’s permanent condition had disappeared. Consequently, the Department of Veterans Affairs significantly reduced Captain Gatlin’s TBI disability rating from 70 percent to 10 percent. Upon an appeal by the Gatlins, the VA sided with Bateen.
However, Captain Gatlin found an ally in the Montana Board of Psychologists, with which he filed a complaint alleging that the testing used by Bateen was insufficient. Upon review of the case, the state Board of Psychologists concurred with Captain Gatlin. The state board imposed sanctions on Bateen, whom they determined had violated “accepted standards of practice” when he used the RBANS test as the basis of his diagnosis. The board ordered the doctor to overturn his diagnosis and asked that Captain Gatlin be given a complete neurological exam.
In light of Captain Gatlin’s experience, and the fact that unqualified physicians were used by the Minneapolis VA to initially perform TBI exams, it is likely that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of veterans who may not have received a fair benefits rating, and thus, may have been denied benefits.
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