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US government urged to extend benefits for brain injury victims

Last January, US Representative Gabrielle Giffords was attacked by a gunman while speaking to constituents in Tucson, Arizona. The tragic incident left Representative Giffords with a severe brain injury and injured 20 bystanders, six of whom died from gunshot wounds.

Since the mass shooting, Representative Giffords has received top-of-the-line medical attention and rehabilitation services, all of which greatly contributed to her amazing progress toward recovery. In a recent letter to top officials in the Obama administration, the congresswoman recognized that not all brain injury victims have access to the same quality of care she has enjoyed.

In the letter, Representative Giffords' chief of staff and other members of Congress urged the government to help all victims of a brain injury afford a comprehensive treatment plan, including rehabilitation.

Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, was one of the letter's main targets. Secretary Sebelius and her staff are working to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which representatives from Giffords' office assert should cover brain injury rehabilitation services.

Brain injuries can occur for a variety of reasons, such as a car crash, stroke, construction accident, or armed assault. Like Giffords, brain-trauma victims often must beat the odds merely to survive their injury, yet without comprehensive rehabilitation treatment, these patients may never regain a reasonable quality of life.

Representative Giffords has enjoyed access to cutting edge brain injury treatments because she was injured while fulfilling her work as a Congresswoman and is therefore eligible for federal workers' compensation. Without this extra financial help, Giffords may not be able to afford many of the treatments she is currently receiving, and neither can many of the other 1.7 million US victims who suffer from a brain injury every year.

Hopefully, Representative Giffords' story will inspire her fellow civil servants to consider brain injury victims when considering future healthcare legislation.

Source: USA Today, "Gabrielle Giffords' office puts focus on brain-injury care." Steve Sternberg, 8 April 2011

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