April 20, 2011

Gillibrand Calls on Defense Sec. Gates to Expedite Acquisition of MRI Equipment for Troops in Afghanistan

MRI Equipment Would Aid Thousands of American Troops with Traumatic Brain Injuries, Equipment Held Up By Lengthy Bidding Process

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Department of Defense to support Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen’s request to expedite the modest purchase and deployment of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to Afghanistan.  Providing MRI equipment is critical in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries.  Two MRI machines are being acquired through a lengthy competitive bidding process that could delay this equipment from reaching American troops on the ground in Afghanistan until August. 

“After being redeployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of New York veterans are suffering from PTSD and TBI, and many are not even aware of it,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Our troops answer a call higher than any other. After all they sacrifice, we owe them a quality of care that lives up to their service -- and fast. The government needs to cut the red tape that’s holding up the care our troops desperately need.”

Last year, at least 300 U.S. troops were diagnosed with concussions every month.  Under the current competitive bidding process in place, the two MRI machines will not be available for four months at the very least.  If purchased outright, the machines could, in a matter of weeks, be operational in Afghanistan, aiding in the treatment and diagnosis of hundreds of American troops.

Senator Gillibrand’s full letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

Dear Mr. Secretary,

I was troubled to learn recently that Admiral Mullen and senior Army and Marine Corps leaders are frustrated by the inability to quickly get magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to Afghanistan.

It is our senior military leaders’ judgment that the introduction of MRI machines to Afghanistan could significantly assist military medical professionals treating our troops with traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Their judgment is backed by medical evidence. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center indicates that MRIs are often used to diagnose the extent of the head injury and help identify mild, moderate, severe or penetrating TBI. Scientists leading a collaborative TBI study between the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and Columbia University lauded the use of a functional MRI to help identify traumatic brain injury in “patients [who] have symptoms of injury, but the physical evidence is not obvious."

With over 300 U.S. troops a month incurring concussions in Afghanistan in the last year, we owe it to our brave men and women to provide them the best possible medical care.  I strongly support the Chairman’s position and am requesting you use your authorities to expedite the procurement and deployment of MRI equipment.  If there is anything I can do to assist you in completing this action, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator