Veterans denied benefits due to improper medical testing
EXPERTS SAY VETERANS UNFAIRLY DENIED BRAIN INJURY BENEFITS
A.J. Lagoe and Steve Eckert
"Obviously that's 9,000 opportunities for something to go wrong with a process that has some flaws in it," said Dr. Hall.
MISSOULA, Mont. - A ruling by a state medical board suggests that veterans nationwide may have been denied brain injury treatments and disability benefits because the Department of Veterans Affairs is using an improper test, according to a new investigation by KARE 11 News.
The findings by the Montana Board of Psychology in the case of Army Captain Charles Gatlin indicate that a test commonly used by the VA to diagnose TBI's is missing too many brain injuries.
Records show that Dr. Robert Bateen, a VA staff psychologist, apparently ignored the Army's more thorough tests and used a brief screening tool called an RBANS to evaluate Captain Gatlin.
"I saw this man for 20 minutes," Gatlin recalls. "And a decision was made."
Based on that short RBANS test, Dr. Bateen concluded that Gatlin's so-called "permanent" condition had seemingly vanished. He wrote, "If Mr. Gatlin had a cognitive impairment in the past, it is likely that this has resolved."
As a result, the Department of Veterans Affairs dropped Captain Gatlin's TBI disability rating dramatically: from 70 percent down to just 10 percent.
The Gatlin's appealed the ruling, but the VA defended Dr. Bateen's diagnosis and claimed the psychologist observed the proper procedures.
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Earlier this year, KARE 11 exposed how the Minneapolis VA had used unqualified doctors to perform initial TBI exams, denying veterans a fair shot at benefits. According to Department of Veterans Affairs rules, only four types of specialists – including neurosurgeons and neurologists – are allowed to make that diagnosis. But KARE 11 documented cases in which veterans were examined by a nurse practitioner instead.