Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: Give Veterans a Chance with Ben Richards

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As sound-bite politicians and Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”) administrators (past and present) slug it out over the future direction of the VA, Maj. Ben Richards has put together a comprehensive 8-week program to treat 10 fellow Veteran warriors who suffer from PTSD and TBI.

Hackworth-Richards Fundraiser

The program is called the Treatment of Ten. SFTT, founded by the legendary war hero COL David “Hack” Hackworth, is helping to raise $150,000 to help these brave Veterans get the therapy they deserve.

Some of these therapies are currently denied Veterans at the VA because of their entrenched bias against Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (“HBOT”) and other alternative treatment therapies. Sadly, the VA treatment offered to our Veterans for PTSD and TBI is shameful as amply documented by previous articles and blog posts published by SFTT.

In his own words, Maj. Ben Richards describes his experiences with the VA and explains that there is hope for Veterans and their caregivers who suffer from terrible brain injury.  Sadly, this non-invasive therapy is not available at the VA and won’t be anytime soon.

Found below are some of the non-invasive therapies that these Veterans in the Treatment of Ten will receive over an eight week period at an HBOT facility in Idaho.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy or HBOT
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment which enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen in a total body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. According to Harch Hyperbarics, “oxygen is transported throughout the body only by red blood cells.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a method in which a changing magnetic field is used to cause electric current to flow in a small region of the brain via electromagnetic induction. iTMS employs a safe, painless, and non-invasive brain stimulation technology to generate a series of magnetic pulses that influence electrical activity in targeted areas of the individual’s brain.

High Performance Neurofeedback
High Performance Neurofeedback or EEG Neurofeedback is a noninvasive procedure that involves monitoring and analyzing EEG signals read through surface sensors on the scalp, and uses the EEG itself to guide the feedback.

Low Level Light Therapy
LLLT (aka as PBM or Photobio Modulation) uses “red or near-infrared light to stimulate, heal, regenerate, and protect tissue that has either been injured, is degenerating, or else is at risk of dying.”

Cranial Electrical Stimulation
CES uses waveforms to gently stimulate the brain to produce serotonin and other neurochemicals responsible for healthy mood and sleep. Proven safe and effective in multiple published studies, the device is cleared by the FDA to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Maj. Richards plans to use these results to develop a template for other communities and medical facilities to adopt the same procedures in helping Veterans cope with debilitating brain injury.

Your support is needed to help with fund this initial program. Unlike many other Veteran support programs, 100% of ALL contributions go to support the TREATMENT OF TEN. If you want to truly support Veterans, please make a contribution now by CLICKING THIS LINK.

Let’s give our Veterans a chance to reclaim their lives.

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The VA and Shulkin: “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard to Serve Your Country”

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Dr. David Shulkin has been pushed aside (read fired) as the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”).  Without taking sides in what appears to be yet another partisan issue, Dr. Shulkin did a reasonably good job in bailing water in a sinking ship:  the VA.

David Shulkin

As such, it was with regret that we read Dr. David Shulkin’s self-serving departure editorial in the New York Times “it should not be this hard to serve your country.”   Indeed, many Veterans poorly served by the VA have felt the same.  But these Veterans, with a legitimate claim were rarely afforded space in the editorial section of the New York Times to discuss their grievances.

The title of the New York’s editorial says it all:  “David J. Shulkin:  Privatizing the V.A. Will Hurt Veterans“.   I am not sure that Dr. Shulkin would have titled his departure editorial this way, but clearly, the New York Times, David Shulkin and J. David Fox, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees, agree that privatizing the VA will harm Veterans.

SFTT is unaware of any compelling evidence that providing “privatized” care to Veterans would jeopardize the mission of the VA or add to the difficulties of Veterans.  Indeed, J. David Fox, seems more concerned about the rights of unionized VA employees than he does about Veterans.

While it is easier to frame the discussion as a debate about the merits of public or private healthcare,  SFTT has long argued that the VA is simply Too Big to Succeed.  It never has been a question of “ownership” or “control,”  it is simply a case of an institution that has become too large to manage effectively.  With over 18 million Veterans, it is unlikely that an overwhelming majority would agree that the VA is provides services that are “second to none.”

In fact, Dr. Shulkin claims that “the percent of veterans who have regained trust in V.A. services has risen to 70 percent, from 46 percent four years ago.  This is not exactly a ringing endorsement on how well the VA is fulfilling its mission.

There are many areas of the VA that fulfill President Abraham Lincoln’s promise:  “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.

But there are other areas in which the VA fell well short of fulfilling President Lincoln’s promise.

Specifically, SFTT has for years called into question the way the VA has treated Veterans with PTSD and TBI:  “the silent wounds of war.”  There is compelling evidence that the VA, through its administrators, has consistently lied to Veterans, their caregivers, Congress and the public on the effectiveness of treating Veterans with brain injury.

More to the point, the VA medical staff has been grossly negligent in providing Veterans with opioids to treat the symptoms of PTSD and TBI rather than offer any real treatment.  Was the VA complicit in fueling the opioid epidemic?

Political posturing on the benefits of public or private ownership doesn’t really help the hundreds of thousands of Veterans suffering from brain injury and their largely forgotten caregivers.

Changing of the guard will do little to fix the VA.  Only a true bipartisan effort to address the problems of the VA will help restore confidence in an institution with far greater promise than the actual results it delivers.

Thank you for your service Dr. Shulkin.

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News for Veterans with PTSD or TBI: Week Ending 2 Feb 2018

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The Department of Veteran Affairs (the “VA”) struggles to provide effective therapy for Veterans with PTSD and TBI.  As such, SFTT has will now focus its attention on providing Veterans and their families cope with information on promising new alternative therapies to help brave warriors cope with brain injury.

The devastating effect of brain injury for hundreds of thousands of Veterans and their families cannot be underestimated.  While SFTT will focus primarily on “new” therapy programs, we will occasionally report on the very unsettling problems faced by Veterans and their families as they seek to recover their lives.

Some “alternative” therapies have already proven to be quite successful, but many others are not widely known to Veterans or the medical profession at large.   Even if these programs were endorsed or approved by the VA, treatment is often beyond the financial means of most Veterans.

While SFTT will let the “news” speak for itself, the science of treating brain injury is still in its infancy.  SFTT attempts to provide balanced reporting of the pros and cons of these emerging therapy programs but strongly encourages the reader to make up their own mind as to their efficacy.

Brain Injuries May Start at a Young Age

A recent article in the New York Times entitled, “Hits to the Head May Result in Immediate Brain Damage,” is troubling for families raising children where contact sports is often a way of life.

While the nature of brain injuries suffered by Veterans leading to PTSD and TBI are far different, the New York Times article suggests that there is still much to be learned in treating concussive events.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE

SFTT has reported on several occasions that the NFL has been investigating a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (“CTE”) which appears to be caused by repeated blows to the head causing a protein called tau to spread and kill brain cells.

For many years the NFL and the VA has tried to hide the effects of debilitating brain injuries from players and Veterans, but the evidence is now overwhelming that concussive events may cause irreparable damage to sensitive brain tissue and cells.

Many parents are already pulling their children from junior football programs and some soccer leagues now prohibit children below the age of 12 from “heading the ball” to avoid brain and neck injuries.  Just recently, star performer Justin Timberlake who will perform at halftime at the Superbowl announced that “my son will not play football.”

Shouldn’t this be a warning message to all parents?

Ketamine Could Help Veterans with PTSD

Promising “new” drugs materialize daily that claim to help Veterans cope with the symptoms of PTSD and TBI.  Ketamine, approved by the FDA many years ago for sedating people (but not approved for treating traumatic events) has become a popular treatment option for Veterans that have exhausted VA remedies.

The San Antonio Express News, reports that Ketamine “has achieved good results in clinical trials.”  It adds that “the military also is interested in its use . . . and that two health facilities will treat active-duty troops and veterans. The research is funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The San Antonio Express News adds that “clinics use the drug off-label, and protocols, staffing and dosing can differ widely from one clinic to the next.   Despite the lack of supporting clinical evidence, many seek ketamine for relief.  “Even at low doses it alters the senses. Critics say the effects of longtime use remain unknown and wonder if ketamine clinics put vulnerable patients at risk.”

SFTT Commentary:  As in all mind or sensory altering drugs, there are risks that are not fully understood by the medical profession.  SFTT continues to support noninvasive therapies, particularly over unregulated and untested drug options.

Army Research Laboratories and Helius Research Neurological Wellness

According to a press release from Aerotech News,

“The U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Helius Medical Technologies, Inc., from Newton, Penn., have partnered to expand on early research that could mean new interventions for improving Soldier readiness and resilience, as well as reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“As part of a cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, ARL and Helius are launching a research program to investigate Helius’ Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator for the enhancing cognitive and psychological readiness and response through mindfulness meditation training. Helius is focused on neurological wellness.

“Researchers from both organizations will combine the use of the neuromodulator with mindfulness meditation training and assess participants’ neurocognitive performance and self-reported symptoms before and after training.”

SFTT Commentary:   While this joint research program seems promising, the Army Research Laboratory has often placed troop “readiness” ahead of troop safety.  SFTT hopes that this study will prove different.

SFTT readers are encouraged to drop us a line if they discover an interesting new therapy to treat PTSD or TBI or would like to share a public interest story.  SFTT can be reached at info@sftt.org.

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Happy 2018!

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Is it too late to wish you all a happy new year? We think not!

Here at SFTT we’ve been busy wrapping up our 2017 initiatives and planning for an even better 2018 with new programs and partners to help Veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

During the past year, Stand for the Troops, the Little Organization That Could and Has, hit a major milestone — we turned 20! Twenty, old enough to be a combat soldier which, in many ways we are. SFTT is at war helping American Veterans combat invisible war wounds.

In 2017, we fought for — and aided — our Veterans who suffer from TBI and PTSD by:

  • Securing educational grants 2017 for west coast Veterans wanting to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture and presently, a 2018 grant to continue this program is being reviewed. We’re also working to expand this program to make it available to Veterans on the east coast.
  • Helping fund Attention-Bias Modification Treatment for PTSD research at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute by supporting the Principal Investigator, Dr. Yuval Neria. Dr. Neria’s other related projects establish innovative trauma care for Veterans and their family members, such as Man of War Project & Military Family Wellness Center.
  • Working in concert with the Knights of Columbus on The Frank Robotti Golf Classic where we raised awareness and funds for service dogs. We’ll be awarding money to a local service dog program soon.

In 2018 we plan to continue this good work while introducing a program that focuses on our co-founder, Col. David “Hack” Hackworth’s commitment to safeguarding frontline soldiers with more than lip service. Our new treatment plan, unveiled in the next few weeks, integrates proven medical and wellness therapies to effectively treat combat-related traumatic brain injury.

We’d love to hear from you so please drop us a line at info@sftt.org!

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Department of Veterans Affairs: Wish List for 2018

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David ShulkinAs 2017 draws to a close, SFTT is delighted with the early initiatives undertaken by Dr. David Shulkin to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”).

While SFTT still believes that the VA is “too large to succeed in its mission,”  we applaud the Herculean effort by Dr. Shulkin to regain management control of this large rudderless ship.

Our brave Veterans simply need a far more responsive system.

Found below are SFTT’s 2018 recommendations for Secretary Shulkin:

Continue Efforts to Purge the VA of Incompetent Staff

It is hardly surprising that reforms within the VA continue to be hampered by J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees.  In fact, the President was obliged to create by Executive Decree the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the Department of Veterans Affairs to protect “whistleblowers” from unfair retribution for reporting abuses within the VA.

VA Secretary Shulkin has the backing of the President, Congress and Veterans to weed out the “bad apples” within the VA, but will it be enough to overcome the stalling tactics of David Cox and the government labor union.  A responsive management structure focused on providing healthcare to Veterans is the goal, but will special-interest groups succeed in derailing Secretart Shulkin’s initiatives?

Focus on Improving the VA’s Core Competency

There are many areas within the VA that are providing outstanding care to Veterans.  Those areas – which need to be identified and nurtured – should be considered the core competency of the VA.  Invest in those are areas which are providing the needed health services to Veterans and question all others that may not be fulfilling that goal.

While Dr. Shulkin closed many underutilized facilities, it may be only the tip of iceberg.  Certain functions within the VA may have already outlived their usefulness and perhaps could be  better performed in the private sector.   Ridding the VA of peripheral activities will permit management to focus on its core competency.

Aggressively Partner with Private Sector

One of the major criticisms of the VA is its penchant for attempting to manage everything in-house.   While this would be wonderful if it worked, the sheer size of the VA and its inability to react quickly and efficiently fails Veterans in their time of need.  The Choice Program is clearly a response to this dilemma.

Indeed, there are plenty of areas where Veterans would be better served through partnerships with the VA.  The VA should seize the initiative to partner with “stronger” local institutions in the private sector who can provide defined services to Veterans.

Distinguish Between “Managing Symptoms” and Therapy

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis is a clear wakeup call to those who believe that “treating symptoms” is therapy.   It is hard to escape the Commission’s damning indictment that “the modern opioid crisis originated within the healthcare system.”  More to the point are the following observations from the Commission:

“Unsubstantiated claims: High quality evidence demonstrating that opioids can be used safely for chronic non-terminal pain did not exist at that time. These reports eroded the historical evidence of iatrogenic addiction and aversion to opioids, with the poor-quality evidence that was unfortunately accepted by federal agencies and other oversight organizations.

Pain patient advocacy: Advocacy for pain management and/or the use of opioids by pain patients was promoted, not only by patients, but also by some physicians. One notable physician stated: “make pain ‘visible’… ensure patients a place in the communications loop… assess patient satisfaction; and work with narcotics control authorities to encourage therapeutic opiate use… therapeutic use of opiate analgesics rarely results in addiction.”

Indeed, the use of opioids to treat pain and depression symptoms is hardly therapy for Veterans with brain trauma.  While VA studies on the benefits of “medicinal marijuana” may provide Veterans with a less dangerous method to cope with the pain of traumatic brain injury, it doesn’t seem to offer much benefit as a long term solution to PTSD and TBI.

The VA should clearly distinguish between medical programs which simply “manage” symptoms and those programs that offer clearly therapeutic benefits without drug dependency.

Improve Responsiveness and Administrative Efficiency

The VA is regularly criticized – and often quite rightly – for its lack of responsiveness and administrative inefficiency.  While no doubt these criticisms will continue, one must applaud Secretary Shulkin’s decision to scrap the VA’s VistA system and replace it with the Department of Defense MHS Genesis to manage electronic records.

Sure, there are many who will not be happy with this decision, but the fact remains that it is far better to upgrade and improve the efficiencies in one BIG system rather than two.  While some Veterans may be concerned about the breach in confidentiality, one system to manage healthcare records should – over time – dramatically improve efficiencies.

It remains to be seen if the “wait times” often cited in IG reports can be significantly reduced.

Summary

SFTT remains hopeful that Dr. Shulkin will continue to push his staff in 2018 to provide Veterans with the care they deserve.

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Celebrate Christmas with a Toast to Our Brave Warriors

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Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” is an entertainment staple of the holiday season. In the story, a wealthy and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by a procession of three ghosts who accompany him through scenes of Christmases past, present, and future.  It is a story that resonates with us.

A Christmas Past

In a Christmas past, I found myself searching house to house through a Baghdad neighborhood for hidden  weapons and explosives being used by various insurgent groups to conduct a brutally violent civil war. As we were moving between houses, a single shot rang. One of my soldiers was knocked backwards by the impact of a high-powered sniper’s bullet.  The soldier’s body armor stopped the round and saved his life. The round had hit the extreme edge of the ballistic plate. A quarter inch higher and it would have punctured his chest close to a number of vital organs.

Within a few minutes, with a new armor plate insert and very bruised chest, this incredible soldier was again leading his men in operations. However, that Christmas morning his family erroneously received a call from an Army casualty notification team informing them that their son had been shot in the chest. We did not discover the error until the operation concluded several days later and the soldier was able to call him. In intervening days three more of my soldiers were nearly killed by a skilled, but very unlucky sniper. One soldier’s sleeve was ripped by near miss. A shot intended for another soldier’s head was stopped by a slab of bullet-proof glass. A third bullet actually entered another soldier’s helmet, grazed his head, and exited without causing harm.

We were truly blessed that my unit’s Christmas Past so narrowly avoided deaths of serious injury, but the ghosts of such Christmases past spent so challenged continue to haunt our present.

A Christmas Present

Since returning home, I have tried to stay in contact with many of the incredible men that I served with. Some of them are doing well. More of them remain haunted by the past in the form of brain damage from IED-caused traumatic brain injuries and from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder for the prolonged exposure to danger and violence we collectively experienced.

In the last few months I have watched the hope for a merry Christmas Present of one of these soldiers vanishing. His wife  was overwhelmed by  caring for him and the rest of their family. And, frankly, people struggling with the effects of the invisible wounds of war are hard to live with. So he is alone, in pain, both physical and emotional, and dreading the reminders the Christmas season brings of all that he has lost as a consequence of serving his country for more than a decade.  It is a scene too often repeated that tears at my heart.

A Christmas Future

In spite of the hope this season brings, the prospects for Christmases Future are dim and discouraging. As we have repeatedly reported, the Department of Veterans Affairs, paralyzed by bureaucratic inertia, divided by competing interests, and anxious to avoid accountability for negligence and squandered billions, is unable to provide effective care for the roughly one-million veterans currently disabled by the invisible wounds of war. Many non-profit organizations allegedly dedicated to helping these veterans instead deliver large paychecks to their staffs, voluminous “educational” fund-raising material, and branded blankets, ball caps and backpacks. There is a lot of talk about hope, but little action to help.

At Stand for the Troops, we believe strongly in the hope of Merry Christmases Future for the combat-disabled veterans struggling through this Christmas Present. Our world-class medical advisory board has identified a range of effective treatments based on an extensive and growing body of scientific evidence and clinical experience.

We invite you to join us this Holiday Season in delivering a future of Merry Christmases to  those who have given up their past and present Christmases for us.

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Sham Veteran Charities: What You Should Know

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There are few things more shameful than dishonest hucksters taking money from unsuspecting donors for what appears to be a worthwhile cause.  Our small staff at SFTT goes “ballistic”  when we learn that telemarketers and “spin-masters” use deceptive and misleading advertising to raise money for Veterans.

telemarketing scams

Just this week, Sarah Kleiner of Politico wrote an article for Politico entitled “Veterans Charity Raises Millions to Help Those Who’ve Served. But Telemarketers Are Pocketing Most of It.”

In this most disturbing article, Ms. Kleiner reports that telemarketers raising funds for the Center for American Homeless Veterans kept the vast majority of funds:

  • Outreach Calling, the telemarketer representing the Center for American Homeless Veterans, kept $3.7 million, or 90 percent, of the $4.1 million it raised for the nonprofit in the 2014 and 2015 tax years, according to the charity’s annual IRS tax filings. Records filed by Outreach Calling in Utah claim the telemarketer has kept $7.9 million out of $8.7 million it raised for the charity from 2011 to 2015.
  • Since 2015, Outreach Calling has raked in $2 million from the Put Vets First! PAC, the political action committee Hampton runs out of the same Falls Church office as his nonprofits. That’s 89 percent of the $2.3 million in donations the PAC has received in the same time period, according to Federal Election Commission filings. 
  • Charitable Resource Foundation, the telemarketer working for Circle of Friends for American Veterans, kept $6.4 million, or 85 percent, of the $7.5 million it raised from donors between the 2011 and 2015 tax years, according to IRS filings.

This is just another disturbing example of how unscrupulous operators pocket a good percentage of the funds raised for Veteran causes.   The mother of Veteran con jobs was perpetuated by the Wounded Warriors Project, but they are back in business some 18 months later raising money by pulling “heart-strings” with their traditional splashy infomercials featuring celebrities on behalf of WWP.

While some might argue that any residual amount that gets through to Veterans is a good thing, it would be nice to know that a large part of YOUR CONTRIBUTION will find its way to a needy Veteran and his or her family.

Make Sure Your Contribution Goes to a Worthy Veteran Cause

  1. Money is fungible and there is little one can do to monitor your funds once it is surrendered to a third party.  As a rule of thumb, THINK LOCAL and do what you can to support Veterans in your community before contributing to National fundraising efforts for Veterans.
  2. HANG UP ON ANY TELEMARKETER.   Their goals and yours probably don’t coincide.
  3. Don’t be swayed by flashy infomercials such as those regularly sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project.   They are rarely genuine.
  4. While Veteran charitable organizations need an active membership to fund ongoing administrative expenses, seek to contribute (or co-invest) in specific projects sponsored by the Veteran charity.  Focus on charities which channel your funds to specific Veteran programs:  education, homelessness, job search, substance abuse, vocational training, etc. are a far better use of funds than a “media-hyped” day at the ballpark.
  5. Sure, due-diligence is important, but many fine people lack the financial resources to run through the regulatory hoops to become an accredited charity.  In fact, the sheer size of the charity may be an inhibiting factor in getting your funds to the right Veteran cause.  THINK SMALL and LOCAL to channel your funds in the “right” direction.
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HBOT for Veterans: Infrastructure Largely in Place

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As SFTT reported earlier, the VA will soon be providing a limited number of Veterans with access to hyperbaric oxygen therapy or “HBOT” at the VA’s Center for Compassionate Innovation (“CCI”) facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.

SFTT has yet to learn when these programs will begin or how many Veterans will be enrolled in these initial programs.  As important, SFTT and the HBOT community at-large is interested in learning how “test protocols,” “metrics,” and “clinical trials” will be set by the VA and DoD to determine the benefits of HBOT.

As one sorts through the often nasty exchanges between proponents of HBOT and the VA gatekeepers like Dr. David Cifu, one cannot be oblivious to the fact that the VA does not want to encourage the adoption of HBOT in treating Veterans with PTSD and TBI.

The VA’s claim is that “patient outcomes’ using HBOT are inconclusive based on VA and DoD trials.

Could it be – as many have suggested – that the test protocols were flawed to produce “inconclusive” test results?   From SFTT’s experience in monitoring the DoD, it would NOT BE THE FIRST TIME that test procedures have been deliberately modified to produce outcomes more to the liking of current military dogma.

Since the VA has no experience in using HBOTin treating Veterans with PTSD, it seems to make sense to use established experts in the industry like Dr. Paul Harch, members of the International Hyperbarics Association or The Sagol Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Research in Israel which provides HBOT treatment to 120 patients a day and to the Israeli Defense Force (“IDF”) to agree on standardized test protocols and monitor results.

Many will argue that further HBOT tests are not required given the wealth research currently available.  In fact, found below is an extract from a Jan, 2017 report:

Xavier A. Figueroa, PhD and James K. Wright, MD (Col Ret), USAF Hyperbaric Oxygen: B-Level Evidence in Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials. Neurology® 2016;87:1–7 “There is sufficient evidence for the safety and preliminary efficacy data from clinical studies to support the use of HBOT in mild traumatic brain injury/ persistent post concussive syndrome (mTBI/PPCS). The reported positive outcomes and the durability of those outcomes has been demonstrated at 6 months post HBOT treatment. Given the current policy by Tricare and the VA to allow physicians to prescribe drugs or therapies in an off-label manner for mTBI/PPCS management and reimburse for the treatment, it is past time that HBOT be given the same opportunity. This is now an issue of policy modification and reimbursement, not an issue of scientific proof or preliminary clinical efficacy.”

While Secretary Shulkin is wise to proceed slowly, he must exercise extreme caution in allowing the naysayers within the VA any authority over the initial CCI HBOT trial programs.

HBOT Infrastructure in Place to Help Veterans

Assuming the VA leadership can get beyond the hurdles they largely created, Veterans with “mild TBI” and “persistent” PTSD should be able to quickly access hundreds of HBOT facilities across the United States.  With equipment already in place around the country in hospitals and private health clinics, there is no need to hold up treatment for Veterans to wait for the VA to outfit its facilities.

Follow this link to see a directory of currently active HBOT treatment centers around the country.

Clear treatment protocols and directives need to be established for each private clinic providing HBOT to Veterans.  HBOT is administered in a series of dives or sessions (usually between 28 and 40) over a 6 week to 2 month time frame.  Supervision by a trained clinician is required at each dive.  Clearly, a larger “dive chamber” capable of offering therapy to a number of Veterans at the same will help bring down the costs of HBOT.

Costs “per dive” or “session” vary significantly around the country.    Some hospitals charge $1,800 per session, but most private clinics offer this service at a cost of between $250 and $350 per dive.  Given the bargaining power of the VA, it seems most likely that a series of battery of dives can be accomplished for well under $10,000, which is less than half of what the VA currently spends on Veterans with TBI/PTSD.

As SFTT has stated on many occasions, HBOT is not the “silver bullet” to eradicate this silent wound of war, but many more Veterans with brain trauma will begin to be able to reclaim their lives with less reliance on VA prescription drugs that simply mask symptoms rather than provide any lasting improvement in brain functionality.

This could be a BIG DEAL for ailing Veterans and family members who provide our Veterans such caring support.

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VA Reluctantly Agrees to Provide HBOT to Veterans with PTSD

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In a carefully crafted message, “The Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it would begin offering hyperbaric oxygen therapy (“HBOT”) to some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, despite a lack of evidence that it works or being approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for PTSD.”

HBOT Therapy

The news was released by “Stars and Stripes” on November 30 in an article titled “VA to offer unproven hyperbaric oxygen therapy to vets with PTSD.”

The article is hardly a ringing endorsement of HBOT.  More to the point, Secretary Shulkin reportedly said on Wednesday that “the VA must ‘explore every avenue’ and ‘be open to new ideas.’”

Well, HBOT may be “new” to the VA, but this therapy has been around for decades and is used successfully around the world to treat patients with brain trauma.  The VA stigma exists because Dr. David Cifu and many other bureaucrats within the VA continue to push a stale agenda of ineffective and often dangerous therapies that don’t work.

In fact, this is one of the major reasons that Veterans with PTSD and TBI have sought treatment outside the VA.   Talking heads at the VA would like Veterans and the public to believe that HBOT is “snake oil,” but there is a long and detailed clinical trail of evidence that suggests otherwise.

Arguing that HBOT is “not FDA or DoD approved” rings a bit hollow after the President’s Report on Fighting Drug Addiction and Opioid Abuse states that “the modern opioid crisis originated within the healthcare system.”   

Let’s face it:  What do you do when evidence-based medicine is proved wrong?   Well, in this case, the Federal government will provide “the healthcare system” with billions of taxpayer dollars to fix the mess they largely created.   Sounds absurd, but you don’t even have to read the small print.

While SFTT is thrilled that Dr. Shulkin has decided to part ways with the orthodoxy of failed VA therapies to treat Veterans with PTSD, it will be years before all Veterans will receive the lifesaving benefits of HBOT.   Furthermore, it is likely that the VA and DoD will again manipulate test protocols to produce treatment outcomes that produce inconclusive results.

Will HBOT work in all cases?   Of course not, but life-changing outcomes are far more likely with HBOT than the only two failed programs currently offered by the VA:

  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy (“PE”) and,
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (“CPT”)

In any event, we hope that doctors within the VA system will not be so dismissive of HBOT that it leads to another Veteran suicide like Eric Bivins.  For those who want a first-hand look into the travesty of the VA system, follow this painful trail of systemic abuse by Eric’s widowed spouse, Kimi.

Our brave Veterans deserve more and SFTT would like to thank Secretary Shulkin for taking this important first step.

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Veteran Drug Courts Are Now Needed More than Ever

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Over five years ago, SFTT met with Judge John Schwartz,  one of the early pioneers in the Veteran Court system.  Discussing the rationale for Vet Courts, Judge Schwartz stated the following “We offer hope to these troubled veterans who have served our country so valiantly.  It’s simply common sense.”

Today, Vet Courts are needed more than ever to help Veterans recover their lives.   Indeed, when one reads that the “the modern opioid epidemic originated within the healthcare system,” one must be simply oblivious to the plight of Veterans if we choose to penalize them once again.

Homeless Veteran

Drug Courts began to emerge in the nineties to deal more effectively with a growing drug problem in the United States.  As SFTT wrote earlier,

“Since the mid-1990, the US judicial system has recognized the need to deal with drug-related criminal activity and have established some 2,600 Drug Treatment Courts in the United States.  Drug treatment courts are specialized community courts designed to help stop the abuse of drugs, alcohol, and related criminal activity. Non-violent offenders who have been charged with simple possession of drugs are given the option to receive treatment instead of a jail sentence.   These programs have proven to be remarkably successful for reducing the level of recidivism in our prison system.

Capitalizing on the infrastructure and success of the Drug Treatment Courts, some 50 or so Veteran Courts (now reportedly 300) have sprung up across the United States to deal with veterans who have committed a crime while suffering from substance abuse.  In many cases, these troubled vets have the support of other Vets (often from the Vietnam era) who “mentor” their military colleagues through the rehabilitation process.

This descriptive video from Justice for Vets provides a useful overview of why our Veterans deserves a better choice than incarceration:

Thanks to Judge Schwartz and other inspired leaders in our judicial and police system, Veteran Courts have expanded all across the United States.  Nevertheless, NPR reported earlier this year that many more Vet Courts are required.  Specifically, NPR noted that some states still do not have a Vet Court and that North Carolina has only 3 when the evidence suggests that we require 17.

As SFTT and others have reported in the past, Veterans with PTSD and TBI have been largely neglected by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“the VA”).  Veterans suffering from brain trauma often resort to substance abuse to curb pain and many resort to crime to support their habits.  Should we penalize these brave Veterans for our collective failings to provide our Veterans with the support they deserve?

SFTT would like to thank the many Veterans and volunteers in the legal profession who give of their time to support our Veterans through an often confusing legal system.

When communities reach out to help these brave warriors, our society is enriched. From our perspective, it’s simply a matter of doing the right thing!  We owe these brave young men and women big time!

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