One of our greatest callings as Americans is to support those who fought to protect our country's freedom. It is our duty and honor to care for our nation's military veterans as they return from overseas, yet we continue to hear of soldiers who struggle to return to a normal life after they are discharged from active duty.
Among the most prevalent causes of suffering among veterans is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which often develops in the wake of combat experiences and brings about frequent anxiety, depression, erratic behavior and suicide.
PTSD is an all-too-common occurrence, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 1 in 5 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD. Since 2000, over 280,000 cases of traumatic brain injury and roughly 120,000 cases of new PTSD have been recorded by the military.
The discussion over PTSD has increased in frequency and volume in the past few years as the public gradually comes to understand the nature of the condition. However, while this is an important step, the federal government has largely failed to take decisive action, leaving many veterans adrift as they wrestle with the scourge of PTSD. Those who do receive care are usually prescribed psychotropic drugs, which can include negative side effects and may lead to dependency.
Recently, an alternative form of treatment known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has yielded promising results. HBOT does not involve the use of drugs and has been shown to be an effective method of PTSD treatment by numerous private-sector studies. However, after reviewing this treatment, the Department of Defense decided against its implementation and declined to perform its own trials.
This inaction by the federal government is completely unacceptable, and Congress should be ashamed of its unwillingness to address these issues. In Indiana, we have striven to make the care of our veterans a top priority through legislation and local action. The Indiana Senate approved multiple pro-veteran bills during the 2014 legislative session, and the Indiana Veterans Affairs Commission is working incessantly to find solutions to these pressing matters.
Unfortunately, the lackadaisical attitude of Congress has made it difficult for us to achieve our goals, but an opportunity to move forward is at hand. H.R. 4870, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015, recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives, and in a committee report released June 13, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., stated that the bill was amended in the House to call for a study of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a treatment for PTSD. The bill received widespread bipartisan support and is now awaiting a vote in the full Senate.
As state legislators, members of the Indiana Veterans Affairs Commission, and military veterans, we call upon U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to support the HBOT study included in H.R. 4870. When it comes to America's veterans, we cannot afford to ignore their physical and mental well-being. Our soldiers put their lives on the line to defend our liberties – now we must stand up to care for them.