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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich urges Federal VA to improve continuation of care for Vets with traumatic brain injuries
New Federal VA Inspector General report finds inadequate follow-up care for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries Illinois Warrior Assistance Program offers 24-hour assistance for Veterans in Illinois through toll-free helpline at 1-866-554-IWAP (4927)

CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blogojevich called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs today to improve continuation of care for Vets with traumatic brain injuries in light of their Inspector General’s report released yesterday finding Veterans in long term recovery for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are not getting the assistance they need.  For Veterans in Illinois, the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program is available and offers 24-hour assistance through a toll-free helpline for Illinois Veterans suffering from symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or TBI.

“The effects of war remain long after our brave men and women return home to their families and friends.  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has to do more for the men and women injured in combat.  In Illinois, we are doing everything in our power to make sure that the people who risked their lives overseas defending our freedom have the opportunity to lead healthy, stable lives,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program will help our returning Veterans make the transition from their tour of duty to everyday life.  I am proud that Illinois is the first state in the nation to develop this type of program, and I hope to see other states develop similar programs to help our brave Veterans across the country.”

The report found that for Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with TBIs, “long-term case management is not uniformly provided for these patients, and significant needs remain unmet.”  These were the findings even though and earlier report found that, “specific attention to the long-term needs of those living with TBI is warranted in part because cognitive and emotional impairments compromise patients’ capacity to seek help on their own.  Unlike other types of injury, brain injury often causes long lasting emotional difficulties and behavioral problems. Further, in contrast to amputations and other disabilities, these problems are often not apparent to casual observers even though they exact a huge toll on patients and families.” 

“So many of the men and women serving in the armed forces are deployed overseas multiple times as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director L. Tammy Duckworth.  “We must make sure that our soldiers returning from combat are able to make the difficult transition from combat life to civilian life, and the Illinois Warrior Assistance Program provides the assistance Veterans need to make their daily life easier.”

The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program confidential helpline, 1-866-554-IWAP (4927), is available and staffed around the clock by health professionals to assist Veterans, day or night, with the symptoms associated with PTSD and to screen for a possible TBI.  Information about the program can also be found at www.illinoiswarrior.com.

The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program provides confidential assistance for Illinois Veterans as they transition back to their everyday lives after serving our country.  Its goal is to help service members and their families deal with the emotional and psychological challenges they may be facing.  The program has three major parts: 

It offers a 24-hour, toll-free helpline at 1-866-554-IWAP (4927), which is staffed by health professionals to assist veterans, day or night, with the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

It  provides Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) screening to all interested Illinois veterans over the phone via the helpline or through the State of Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Veteran Service Officers (VSOs).

It makes TBI screenings mandatory for all returning members of the Illinois Army National Guard and Air National Guard. 



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