Department of Defense

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The Department of Defense awarded $17 million to 11 public institutions, including UT, to assist traumatic brain injury research, the University announced Wednesday. 

Eleven U.S. public and private institutions received the one-time award by a government program directed by Colonel Dallas Hack.

UT psychology professors Alex Valadka and David Schnyer have now joined a national team of researchers that evaluates collected data to find commonalities in order to find a way to tackle specific brain injuries. 

According to Schnyer, the push for more research and funding was brought out of failed attempts at treating the damage. 

“This research was born out of some serious frustration,” Schnyer said. “There had been as many as 60 failed treatment trials in traumatic brain injury, and a number of organizations and critical players in that arena decided that what was needed was to backtrack [because] maybe the difficulty is we don’t understand the scope of traumatic brain injury nor particular subtypes of traumatic brain injury.”

According to the College of Liberal Arts, the grant will help Schnyer and Valadka continue working with a multi-site research study called TRACK-TBI. 

Schnyer said the money will help in handling and gaining more data on a national level and acquiring new tools that prove useful when evaluating brain damage. 

“The money is doing a number of things,” Schnyer said. “It’s developing a blood depository [for storage and analysis, and] part of that money is [being used] to expand on the current number of people that we will be able to collect data on, and … to add some new neuroimaging techniques.” 

Schnyer said this new research will help build a larger database, which will help specify exactly what types of brain injuries there are, so contemporary research can be more focused. 

“The idea of this grant is to create … a large database of patients who have had traumatic brain injury, across a lot of measures like blood serum measures, plasma, so we can get genetics/proteomics, brain injury measures, neuropsychological measures — all so we can create a database and try to determine what subtypes of traumatic brain injury there are,” Schnyer said. “By identifying specific subtypes, then we can then maybe target treatments for those specific subtypes.”

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is not extending some housing benefits to same-sex partners of service members even though it legally could because the complex issue requires more review and has triggered concerns among military leaders, senior Pentagon officials said Monday.

A new department memo detailed a number of other benefits that will be extended to same-sex partners, including identification cards that will provide access to commissaries and other services. Some access to base housing is not specifically prohibited and could be offered in the future.

—Compiled from
Associated Press reports

The Texas Military Forces and the University of Texas at Austin have reached an agreement allowing students who serve in the National Guard to maintain their military tuition assistance.

The agreement, approved by the Department of Defense, changes UT’s policy on how tuition fee statements are listed. UT’s funding from the Federal Tuition Assistance program was at risk after a Department of Defense policy change in March required schools to provide itemized tuition fee statements in order to receive funding. Now UT meets this requirement and 24 active military students at UT will continue to receive their federal funding.

Kevin Hegarty, vice president and chief financial officer at UT-Austin, said in a press release that UT-Austin and the Texas Army National Guard worked together to fix the policy discrepancy.

“The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to helping students who are active military and veterans and is regularly recognized as one of the top schools in the nation for soldier students,” Hagerty said. “Today’s agreement allows these students to continue to receive all the tuition assistance to which they are entitled and will not cost the university any extra money. The Texas Army National Guard has worked closely with UT-Austin to resolve this issue quickly and smoothly.”

In June the Texas National Guard sent letters to active military students at UT-Austin and UT-Arlington warning them that their funding was at risk because of the differences in tuition practices. Failure to adhere to the policy would have affected 46 students, 24 in Austin and 22 in Arlington.

Update on June 22 at 12:50 p.m. - UT spokesperson Gary Susswein said UT Austin and Texas Army National Guard officials had a productive meeting Thursday afternoon on their differing tuition policies.

“Nothing is final, but we are discussing a solution we believe will satisfy UT Austin's flat rate tuition policies as well as the national guard's tuition assistance program requirements,” Susswein said.

UT-Arlington and the Department of Defense reached an agreement to resume tuition funding for active military students on Tuesday, while UT-Austin and the DOD are still negotiating, according to the Texas National Guard’s Education Services Office website.

Earlier in June, the Texas National Guard sent letters to active military students in at UT-Austin and UT-Arlington, warning them they may need to self-fund their education since the DOD will no longer grant tuition assistance for students attending schools that bundle tuition rates into a single, flat rate. The DOD instead wants schools to itemize their tuition on a course-by-course basis to make sure students are using the funding only for tuition and not other expenses.

The post on the Education Services Office website said the agreement with UT-Arlington means the school will provide itemized bills directly to the Education Services Office.

“As soon as our office receives itemized bills for students attending UT-Arlington, it will start approving the previously rejected applications for tuition assistance, barring all other criteria has been met by the Student,” the website said.

The website said the office of Education Services was still in discussion with UT-Austin, and it looked foreword to reaching an agreement soon.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein told the Daily Texan last week that the University was committed to making sure no students who were members of the military would lose their funding.

Representatives from the UT System will meet with the U.S. Department of Defense within the next few weeks in an attempt to negotiate a deal to keep tuition funding for active UT military students.

The Texas National Guard sent letters to active military students June 7 warning them to prepare to self-fund their education since the Department of Defense will no longer grant tuition assistance for students who attend schools that bundle tuition rates into a single, flat rate. A flat rate combines tuition fees and also includes other expenses that do not only apply to tuition. Currently, both UT-Austin and UT-Arlington charge tuition by this method. The change will affect 46 students, 24 at Austin and 22 in Arlington. Veterans and their dependents who receive benefits from the GI Bill will not be affected. UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University has been working to reach an agreement with the DOD for about two weeks and has been in contact with the UT System for several months.

“Our goal is that no students who are members of the military will lose their funding at UT,” Susswein said. “We are absolutely committed to making sure that our soldiers, our veterans and our guardsmen can take advantage of financial aid at UT.”

The letter stated active military students who applied for tuition assistance before March 22 will receive their money, but applications submitted after that date will not be approved until an agreement is reached.

Susswein said he could not give any information on what a possible solution might look like.

“There are various ideas that have been discussed, but they have not been assessed enough for us to say what they are yet,” Susswein said. “But everyone is on board with getting this solved as quickly as possible.”

The new DOD criteria requires schools to itemize their tuition on a course-by-course basis to make sure students are using the funding only for tuition and not other expenses. Students who go to schools that do not meet this criteria will not receive tuition assistance.

According to the Texas National Guard’s Education Office, the DOD’s policy change went into effect March 22 and only impacts UT-Austin and UT-Arlington.

The letter said the Texas National Guard Education Office is hoping to see a solution reached between the UT System and the DOD by the end of June. The letter warned that students from neither school will be able to receive federal tuition assistance until a solution is reached.

“Be cognizant that there is no guarantee that a solution will be reached and you may end up self-funding your tuition assistance,” the letter stated.

Donnie Davis, a veteran and sociology senior, said he had confidence that the UT System and the DOD would reach an agreement. While Davis, who gets his tuition assistance through the GI Bill and will not be affected, said the University has become better at working with veterans and active duty soldiers than it used to be when he ended his military service in 2009.

“Since I have been here, a lot of changes have happened,” Davis said. “We were kind of thrown into the school and didn’t get a lot of help when I first got here. Just within the last year things have gotten better.”

Davis said the Student Veteran Center, which provides assistance by aiding with students’ graduation plans, is an example of how the University has been better accommodating to Veterans.

“We’re one of the first schools to have a [Student Veteran Center],” Davis said. “It would be quite a step back to pull back and say ‘veteran students are cool, but these active military students are going to lose their financial assistance.’”

UT’s Center for Electromechanics, along with Atlanta-based Center for Transportation and the Environment, delivered two hydrogen-powered utility vehicles to the U.S. military’s largest combat support agency. The cars have a much greater range than other vehicles of their type and use “the fuel of the future,” said program manager Richard Thompson. The team increased hydrogen storage and maximized efficiency in weight, volume, cost, safety and commercialization potential. To make the vehicle as efficient as possible, the team used high-energy batteries and a high-pressure hydrogen storage unit. The team worked together to build and test the vehicles, but UT’s center developed the high-energy battery that was essential for the creation of the vehicle. “[The Department of Defense is] very interested in the use of hydrogen-fueled transportation vehicles,” Thompson said. “They want to increase its efficiency and use.” The department has access to hydrogen, so they are looking to make extended-range vehicles. While most vehicles like this get 30 miles with full charge, the new one gets 300 miles. “This project took about 10 months from the beginning to when we delivered the vehicles to Georgia,” Thompson said. “They are beginning a 12-month demonstration period at the Defense Distribution Depot.” Research associate Mike Lewis said the project’s purpose was to increase the vehicle’s range and advance hydrogen technology. “The Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency are being pushed by the government right now to start implementing hydrogen-fueled vehicles,” Lewis said. “There’s a mandate to push the technology more to being a commercial project.” He said increasing the range 10-fold is a significant improvement, and the vehicle will be used daily on Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. “Their maintenance people will use them to do their normal, everyday work,” he said. UT and the Center have collaborated in the past, and their relationship goes back 10 or 15 years, said Erik Bigelow, project manager in technology for the CTE. “CTE has been working with the Federal Transit Administration for about three-and-a-half years now,” Bigelow said. “CTE has been the main project manager and got if off the ground. We put the initial project plan together and we’ve been working toward executing that.”