Some 5.3 million Americans live with disabilities caused by a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is a leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults. At least 1.4 million Americans suffer a TBI each year, which costs more than $56 billion. Falls, motor-vehicle crashes, sports injuries and violence are the major causes.
The military is beginning to see dramatic increases. In one study, 62 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq were found to have suffered a brain injury.
Congress must examine the issue, educate and contribute. I am proud to have introduced, with my co-chairman Rep. Todd Russell Platts (R-Pa.), a resolution to designate a National Brain Injury Awareness Month, usually recognized as March.
The TBI Act promotes sound policy in prevention and treatment and provides funding for research. It is due to be reauthorized in 2005.
Unfortunately, the TBI Act programs received no funding in the president's 2006 budget proposal. Not one penny is allocated to this silent epidemic, and I encourage my colleagues in Congress to fight for the necessary funding. Not to do so would be painfully inhumane.
For our nation's military, the Defense and Veterans Head Injury Program (DVHIP) is the only federal program that provides direct, brain-injury-specific care to active-duty personnel. More money is needed because of the increased number of brain injuries suffered from blasts in Iraq.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, represents the 8th Congressional District.