Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Traumatic Brain Injury-Resource Optimization Center (TBI-ROC): Organizers Seek to Build Rock-Solid, Streamlined Services for Injured Servicemembers

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Traumatic Brain Injury-Resource Optimization Center (TBI-ROC): Organizers Seek to Build Rock-Solid, Streamlined Services for Injured Servicemembers

Article excerpt

Whether in civilian or military life, the complicated maze of insurance coverage, providers, and services can be difficult to traverse. Compounded by injuries experienced in war and the need for rehabilitation and seamlessness of services to ensure optimal opportunity at recovery, these obstacles become even more challenging and can contribute to a recovering servicemember's feelings of debilitation and helplessness well beyond the mental and physical injuries they have experienced.

Organizers of the Traumatic Brain Injury-Resource Optimization Center (TBI-ROC) aim to change all of that through cooperation with government entities such as the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as civilian healthcare providers via a resource TBI-ROC has developed known as the Brain Injury Navigator (BIN). The Brain Injury Navigator provides a road map for care, available so that any servicemember or family member and any physical or mental healthcare provider can know at a glance the stage of care that a servicemember is in and the next steps required for his or her care as well as available resources.

As is often the case when change occurs to systems, there is a very real, human need and driving force behind this push for change. Peter Bunce (Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired) is a member of the TBI-ROC Advisory Group and one of its spokespersons. Pete's son, Justin, 25, a Marine Corporal, was in one of the initial waves of Marine units, 3rd Battalion 7th Marine Regiment, into Iraq in 2003. Pete explains that his son survived his eight-month deployment, and his family had a welcome home party for him, "and I thought we were safe." Then he received a call from Justin, whose unit was stationed at Marine Corps Base Twenty-Nine Palms in California. "Dad, they're going to send us back in about two months," he told his father. Briefly into his second tour, Justin was severely injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). He lost the vision in his right eye and sustained a traumatic brain injury from shrapnel that penetrated his frontal lobe. "You don't know anything about brain injury until it affects somebody you love," Pete says. The Bunce family worked strenuously to pull together the necessary services for Justin's rehabilitative care. When Pete was asked to be a part of TBI-ROC, the group's endeavors meshed with his envisioned philosophy for integrated and readily accessible care.

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Where Do We Go From Here?

When Justin was close to the end of his therapy at the VA hospital in Washington, DC, his family was told, "There isn't much more he can do." "I knew that he had more potential," says Pete. The Bunce family began to search the country for a facility that could help Justin make further progress. The VA put together a list of questions the family could use as they searched for a facility that could provide the next stage of care. The search across the country led to a facility in Wisconsin that specializes in brain injury rehabilitation, where Justin is currently receiving care and continues to make progress. His family wanted to find a facility that would not only be good for him in this phase of his recovery but in the next stage, with vocational training, says Pete. "He's come so much farther than anybody thought he could," Pete says.

Even though Pete Bunce has experience in working within a bureaucracy, he found the process of navigating through the health system challenging and frustrating. His family became the case managers for Justin, he said, bringing back best practices to share with his care providers. It was Justin's family who spent time researching and visiting facilities to determine what would provide Justin's best options. "I have no criticism of the VA," says Pete. "This is new," he says, indicating that the Vietnam era is very different than that of the Global War on Terror. "The VA's doing a tremendous job, in my estimation, of trying to service this very large population. …

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