Millions in Research Later, Brain Injury Testing for Veterans Still Inadequate

08 Dec 2011

Despite the military spending millions of dollars in developing a brain injury-testing program, veterans are nowhere closer to a protective system that helps detect even minor brain injuries. According to an investigation by NPR and ProPublica, a military brain injury testing program that would test a veteran’s brain function before deployment and after deployment, has failed to help the veterans it is meant to serve.

In 2007, Congress passed a measure that required such testing for soldiers. The testing program is called the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric, and it was developed to ensure that soldiers with a brain injury that escaped conventional diagnostic techniques could be helped in time, or so California disability benefits lawyers believed at the time. However, the investigation by NPR and ProPublica has found that the program has failed to help veterans.

In the 4 years since that measure was passed, more than 1 million veterans have taken the test which has cost taxpayers about $42 million, but increased diagnosis, follow ups and speedier treatment have lagged.

According to the investigation, the people who invented the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric and stood to profit from it, were the same people who were involved in the decision by the military to use the testing program. No serious consideration was given to any of the other testing methods under review. Moreover, the military failed to take into consideration years of warning that there was not enough evidence that the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric could be accurate or reliable in diagnosing a traumatic brain injury.

The test has barely been administered as recommended, and the results of the testing have not been used to enhance brain injury diagnosis for veterans. In fact, the ProPublica investigators allege that that the test was an unproven tool that was embraced in a hurry by the Department of Defense at great taxpayer cost, but little benefit to veterans.

The U.S. military acknowledges that the test is not an optimal test, and says that it is in the process of trying to improve on the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric.