The Traumatic Brain Injury Act

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed Public Law 104-106 (also known as the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996) into law. This bill was significant, because it was the first piece of federal legislation in the United States to focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI). Since 1996, the act has been re-signed four times: 2000, 2008, 2014, and 2018. Each time, the old provisions were renewed and some new provisions were included to ensure that the government is doing their due diligence regarding this invisible wound of war. 

The original 1996 act started with the basics and defined TBI. It clarified that a TBI was an “acquired injury to the brain” excluding a dysfunction that could be caused by a disorder. It also narrowed the scope to exclude birth trauma. However, brain injuries that resulted from anoxia (which happens when the body/brain loses its oxygen supply, such as when a person nearly drowns), were to be included. It also required a national consensus conference on the rehabilitation of persons with TBI. Most importantly, it allocated funding for grants or awards to conduct research and carry out projects that would hopefully reduce TBIs. There was no allocation such as this prior to the Traumatic Brain Injury Act, making it a significant step in recognition of the significance of TBIs. 

The reason that the act has been renewed is primarily for the sake of funding. The 1996 act authorized funding only through 1999 so funding needed to be reauthorized, and continues to require reauthorizations once the funding period concludes. During the renewal process in 2000, a series of amendments were made. Those include extending the time allowed for funding to five years and broadening the narrow scope of “anoxia due to near drowning” to “anoxia due to trauma” (since anoxia can occur in other incidents aside from drowning). It also expanded TBI surveillance to include previously excluded people in institutional settings, as well as individuals with mild brain injury, to help paint a better picture of cases of mild brain injury. 

The 2008 and 2014 reauthorizations didn’t break any significant new ground, aside from the 2014 act directing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  to review brain injury management in children and potentially expand upon that area of TBI research in the future. The 2018 reauthorization was the same, although the act expanded its scope once again to allow the CDC to explore concussions. The next renewal of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act will take place in the mid-2020’s. 

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Posted on September 27 2021 in Blog

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