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Health Highlights: May 6, 2015

Investigate All VA Regional Offices for Problems: Senators Football Players Wear Sensor-Equipped Helmets to Study Concussions Aetna to Halt Most Coverage of Laparoscopic Hysterectomy Device

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Investigate All VA Regional Offices for Problems: Senators

A group of U.S. senators wants the Government Accountability Office to investigate all 56 regional offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs for problems that cause delays in processing veterans' disability and pension claims.

Legislation requiring the investigation was to be included in a report to be released Wednesday by the bipartisan group of nine senators, the Associated Press reported.

They said recent findings of mismanagement at the Philadelphia VA -- such as alterations of quality reviews, manipulation of dates to make old claims appear new, and neglected mail -- suggest there may be department-wide issues.

"The VA system again finds itself engulfed in another scandal," said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., co-chair of the Senate's VA backlog working group, the AP reported.

He said poor management in VA offices across the country shows "it is time for an overhaul of the entire system."

The other co-chair of the working group, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is also worried that the Philadelphia VA office is not the only one with problems. "It's simply unacceptable to have a veteran with a disability wait hundreds of days for their claim to be resolved," he said, the AP reported.

The VA claims there are 161,000 disability and compensation claims on backlog (defined as pending over 125 days), compared to a peak of 611,000 in March 2013. However, the accuracy of the data has been challenged by the VA inspector general.

The Senate report says the inspector general should determine whether claims processors should be held to deadlines, and calls on the VA to improve manager training, submit an updated assessment of staffing and budget needs within six months, and keep Congress informed about its switch to an electronic claims system, the AP reported.


Football Players Wear Sensor-Equipped Helmets to Study Concussions

Football players at three universities will wear sensor-equipped helmets for the next three seasons in order to help researchers learn more about head hits and concussions.

Data from the helmets worn by players at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina and Virginia Tech will be sent to Indiana University for analysis, ABC News reported.

The sensors in the helmets will reveal where and how hard players are hit, according to Dr. Chris Giza, director of UCLA's Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program.

"The first part of the study is trying to figure out normal biological process -- what's that window of brain vulnerability before people can go back to [playing] safely," Giza told ABC News.

The $30 million study is funded by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Department of Defense.


Aetna to Halt Most Coverage of Laparoscopic Hysterectomy Device

Most coverage of a once-popular device used in laparoscopic hysterectomies will end within two weeks, Aetna says.

As of May 15, the nation's third-largest health insurer will no longer cover the use of power morcellation in hysterectomies or for removing uterine fibroids, the Associated Press reported.

However, Aetna added it will make exceptions for certain patients who want to maintain their fertility or for whom the use of another procedure could be life-threatening.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that laparoscopic power morcellators can spread undetected cancers and should not be used in most patients, the AP reported.

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