Veterans Day was formally observed on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery with a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, a parade of colors by veterans' organizations, and remarks from dignitaries. For many the recognition of Veterans Day continues today, on this federal holiday with school or community activities recognizing members of our military. We at the Epilepsy Foundation want to salute all of our active, retired, and deceased military.
In 2008, the Epilepsy Foundation supported the VA Epilepsy Centers of Excellence Act that became law. The law established centers that help bring specialized epilepsy care to the overall Veterans Administration (VA) health network; conduct research that may lead to the prevention of epilepsy as an outcome of traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as research for better seizure control and treatments; and allows veterans living in rural communities or far from VA hospitals access to the care they need. TBI is one of the most common injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Experts believe 30-50% of military personnel affected by TBI will develop epilepsy. The epilepsy VA centers will help prepare the VA for the expected influx of new cases.
Recently, the Epilepsy Foundation asked Congress to call on the Veteran’s Administration and Secretary Eric Shinseki to support continued funding and success of the Epilepsy Centers of Excellence. In a short time during the October congressional recess, the Epilepsy Foundation advocates, along with our strong partner the American Academy of Neurology, helped gain the support of 43 Representatives to a letter championed by U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (Colorado) calling on the VA to continue the centers funding. You can read the letter from members of Congress to the VA Secretary here. We strongly support these centers. In 2011, it is estimated that the centers covered their own budget costs through services that were not outsourced. Costs for epilepsy care had been increasing rapidly as of 2008. Because of the epilepsy centers by 2011 VA costs for epilepsy care has decreased by an estimated $5.5 million per year in real dollars. With the infrastructure in place these savings are expected to grow significantly each year the centers are in operation.
Personally, as someone whose family has served in every branch of the military and every U.S. conflict as far back as my family can trace, the commitment to service has been ingrained in my idea of citizenship. It is this importance of service that led me to work in public and government, and to the public policy work at the Epilepsy Foundation. As you consider the sacrifice of our nation’s veterans, I hope you and everyone in our advocacy network can take time this week to reflect on your own ideas for service, citizenship and duty.
Thank you to all the men, women, and families that serve and sacrifice for our country!
Read more about epilepsy, TBI, and veterans issues here