If you’re a veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during service, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) makes available a program to help treat your condition. The VHA’s Polytrauma System of Care (PSC) was designed to provide care and treatment for veterans who suffer the effects of a TBI by itself or together with other health conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

A TBI can occur when the head experiences a severe jolt or violent blow, and this type of injury can happen in many ways. You may be in a car accident, sustain injuries in a sports-related incident, slip and fall from a high distance or onto a hard surface, or be involved in a blast or an explosion. Any of these situations can produce a TBI. The force of the blow moves the brain around inside the skull and can cause damage to brain tissue, bruising, and bleeding. But often, a combat soldier who’s involved in an explosion not only suffers a TBI but other injuries, as well. When this happens, they experience polytrauma.

What Is Polytrauma?

Polytrauma is a term used by the VA to describe multiple injuries to more than one organ and body part; one of the injuries is life threatening; and all of the injuries occur in a single event. For veterans, very often this event is an explosion caused by an improvised explosive device (IED), land mine, mortar round, or rocket-propelled grenade. These injuries can result in functional disability involving physical, psychological, emotional, and cognitive damage. A TBI is often one of the injuries in a polytrauma and occurs along with other medical problems such as a spinal cord injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, amputation, or visual and hearing problems. Combat soldiers often experience severe and complex polytrauma injuries that require a multitude of support services.

The VA PSC Makes TBI Care Easily Accessible

Because the VA wants care for veterans suffering from a TBI to be readily available, they created the PSC. This program treats A Doctor Meeting With a Patient and Shaking Handsveterans with a TBI but who also have other injuries and conditions. Those veterans who suffer the most serious wounds are treated at one of the VA’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers or a Polytrauma Network Site. Those with wounds that are less serious may get treatment at local VA Medical Centers.

The VA PSC is made up of four units:

  • Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRCs). These centers are regionally located for referrals for acute inpatient medical and rehabilitation care.
  • Polytrauma Network Sites (PNS). These sites coordinate their services within the Veterans Integrated Service Networks and provide post-acute rehabilitation.
  • Polytrauma Support Clinic Teams (PSCT). There are 87 of these clinics within VA medical centers throughout the U.S. They provide specific and specialized outpatient care.
  • Polytrauma Point of Contact (PPOC). The people who work here are points of contact for information about the PSC and are instrumental in case managements and referrals. They may provide limited rehabilitation services.

At these centers, treatment for a TBI focuses on symptoms that interfere with day-to-day life and create the most problems for veterans. These treatments help veterans to:

  • Understand the various medications needed to resolve issues.
  • Learn the ways to cope with and handle behavioral, health, and cognitive issues.
  • Deal with rehabilitation therapies that may include physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy.
  • Learn how to use technology and devices that provide assistance.     

PSC Success

The success of the PSCs is demonstrated in the number of patients they have serviced over the last 10 years for both veterans and civilians:

  • Over 2,700 inpatients received care at PRCs.
  • Over 570 patients received residential care after requiring inpatient services.
  • Over 760,000 veterans involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars were screened for TBIs.
  • Over 107,000 evaluations were conducted for TBIs.
  • Nearly 1 million PSC (outpatient) encounters took place.

If you suffered a TBI, finding the right kind of care is important to your recovery. Finding the right kind of financial help is critical to your future. At Cuddigan Law, we understand the application process for those who seek and need disability for TBIs. We know that TBI disability cases are challenging, but we also know it’s possible to win them. Call us at (402) 933-5405 for a free evaluation of your case.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska