- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Two members of the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have expressed concern over the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs to handle a costly brain research program in Waco.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Florida, and U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, said in a statement Thursday that the VA is mismanaged and cannot successfully handle the project at the Waco Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans.

“With Traumatic Brain Injury being the signature wound of our recent conflicts, every research resource must be used to its fullest potential,” Miller said. “VA must hold employees accountable if that potential is squandered. So far, VA has failed to do that.”

Flores agreed, adding that the program should be handled by a different agency, such as the National Institutes of Health.

“I just don’t trust the VA on something like this,” said Flores, whose district includes Waco. “They have proven themselves not to be worthy of taxpayer funds.”

The brain imaging research program was originally touted as a groundbreaking program that would provide insight into traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. But a recent investigation by the Austin American-Statesman (https://bit.ly/1qOl9fh ) found the six-year-old project has cost millions of dollars, including a $3.6 million mobile brain scanner that hasn’t been used in three years, and hasn’t produced any results.

“If we give them an opportunity to salvage the research it would have to be measured in months, not years,” Flores said. “I’m not led to believe we’ll get a better outcome.”

The U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee has requested information from the VA about the center’s performance. Flores said he and his fellow committee members hope to determine “what went wrong” and “who’s responsible.”

More than 350,000 service members who served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD and more than 300,000 suffer from traumatic brain injuries.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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