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Collins, King call for review of DoD efforts to deal with service members' traumatic brain injuries

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, chat Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Bath, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, chat Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Bath, Maine.

Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen lawmakers are requesting a review of Department of Defense efforts to identify, prevent and treat traumatic brain injuries that occur as a result of service members' blast exposures.

In a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers write that the Department of Defense (DoD) provided treatment for traumatic brain injuries nearly 50,000 times in just the first three months of 2023 and more than 200,000 times the year before.

A brain tissue analysis of the man responsible for the mass shootings in Lewiston last October showed evidence of traumatic brain injuries which may have been caused by his repeated exposure to explosive blast waves in training with the Army reserves.

In their letter, the lawmakers say that while the Department has spent nearly $3 billion on TBI research in recent years, major gaps remain for protecting service members' brain health. They point to a Senate hearing in February on blast exposure care that they say "made clear that there is uncertainty over the DoD's strategy and plan for implementation."

"The Department needs to take more urgent action," they wrote. "Otherwise troops will continue to struggle to get the care they need and deserve."

They're asking the GAO to review the Department's research on TBI and to identify those most at risk. TBI is considered one of the "signature wounds" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree and Maine Congressman Jared Golden also signed the letter.