Apr 15 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Thom Tillis and his colleagues recently introduced the Blast Overpressure Safety Act, bipartisan legislation that would direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to enact various measures to help mitigate and protect servicemembers from blast overpressure.

“We owe it to our veterans and servicemembers to remove barriers to brain health treatment and ensure preventive measures are taken to protect them from TBI’s and other harmful brain injuries,” said Senator Tillis. “TBIs resulting from blast overpressure and exposure to explosive weapons are a far too common occurrence for servicemembers, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This bipartisan legislation enhances prevention measures for blast overpressure and supports life-saving treatment for TBIs and other brain injuries.” 

“Brain health plays a crucial role in many veterans’ overall quality of life. Head-related trauma, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), is sometimes referred to as the ‘signature injury’ for post-9/11 veterans due to the increased TBI prevalence among veterans of this generation. Wounded Warrior Project’s (WWP’s) 2022 Annual Warrior Survey found that 36.5% of WWP warriors self-reported experiencing TBI due to military service,” said Jen Silva, Chief Program Officer, Wounded Warrior Project  “The Blast Overpressure Safety Act will help protect servicemembers from blast overpressure and TBI; improve research and data collection regarding brain health and safety; and expand access to effective treatments and support for veterans with a brain injury. WWP supports this bill, and we applaud the senators for their efforts to address this critical issue.”

Specifically, the Blast Overpressure Safety Act would: 

  • Mandate regular neurocognitive assessments over a servicemember’s career, including a baseline neurocognitive assessment before training.
  • Create blast overpressure exposure and TBI logs for all servicemembers, which will be captured in their individual longitudinal exposure records.
  • Increase transparency regarding blast overpressure safety in the weapons acquisition process. DoD must consider the minimization of blast overpressure during the acquisition process, require contracting entities to provide blast overpressure safety data, and publish blast overpressure safety data for weapons systems and its plans to better protect servicemembers from in-use weapons systems.
  • Improve data on concussive and subconcussive brain injuries servicemembers sustain. This includes information on discharges related to and medical providers trained in these injuries, as well as efforts with allies and partners to better address these injuries.
  • Enhance efforts to mitigate exposure and help servicemembers access care. This includes retaliation protections for those who seek care; modifying existing weapons system to reduce blast exposure; updating and making publicly available blast overpressure thresholds and creating a waiver system for exceeding these thresholds.
  • Support servicemember treatment by establishing a Special Operations Comprehensive Brain Health and Trauma program, making the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) a program of record and requiring DoD to provide childcare services to those seeking treatment there, and mandating training for medical and training personnel on blast overpressure and exposure and TBI.
  • Mandate GAO review on DoD efforts to address blast exposure, protect servicemembers from retaliation, and identify the most at-risk military occupational specialties.
  • Implement DoD Inspector General (IG) recommendations from a 2023 report finding DoD does not consistently determine the care servicemembers with TBI need.  

Full text of the bill is available HERE