Today, Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, pre-filed BR 278, the “Colonel Ron Ray Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Act.” The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, would open up Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) to military veterans suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and would come at no cost to taxpayers.
BR 278 is the result of Mrs. Eunice Ray, the wife of Colonel Ronald D. Ray who was the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan, contacting Rep. Lee directly to explain the need for access to oxygen chambers for veterans. Nearly 50 years after concussive force and injuries Colonel Ray suffered while in combat in South Vietnam, this decorated Kentucky vet carries the devastating diagnosis of “Major Neurocognitive Disorder Secondary to a Medical Condition Traumatic Brain Injury.” After extensive testing, hyperbaric oxygen treatment was prescribed by his neurologist/psychiatrist and his GP, but Colonel Ray was denied treatment even though he was willing to pay himself for 60 oxygen treatments in the metal tanks.
“As a result of the huge numbers of returning vets from the desert wars with similar wounds, my husband and I are asking that oxygen chambers be opened to veterans who suffer from traumatic brain injuries,” said Mrs. Ray. “In the last 15 years alone, the desert wars have produced over 350,000 service members diagnosed with TBI, many from blast exposure. It’s time that these veterans have access to the medical care they deserve.”
As understanding of TBI’s short and long-term effects increase, oxygen, an old treatment, has found a new application with TBI. Today, hyperbaric oxygen treatment is an FDA approved treatment for strokes (a neurological event), wounds, diabetic wound care, and other conditions. While the VA considers HBOT as “off-label” for TBI, it has more “on-label” indications for brain injury treatment than any drug or therapy in medicine.
Oklahoma was the first state to open the chambers for veterans, and Rep. Stan Lee is leading the effort to ensure Kentucky vets are not blocked from accessing the chambers.
“It’s time to allow wounded veterans access to this FDA treatment currently used for strokes, wounds, diabetic wound care, and other conditions,” added Rep. Lee. “There is no cost to taxpayers as this bill simply opens the door for a treatment modality to give these wounded warriors a chance at a normal life.”
“In light of the current opioid crisis, HBOT is an urgent, cost-effective, efficient and safe alternative to the narcotic cocktail currently prescribed to many veterans,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Tim Moore, who is Chairman of the House Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. “For the 700,000 brain injured vets, drug therapy offers little to no long term health benefits and limited improvement in quality of life, yet costs $60,000 per veteran annually for treatment and loss of productivity. Additionally, HBOT would also help veterans avoid being entrapped in the growing opioid crisis that is sweeping the nation.”
Across the country, thousands of veterans are being treated with HBOT through nonprofit clinics in Ohio, Colorado, Idaho, and Oklahoma. Anecdotal evidence from these clinics includes getting off of narcotics and antidepressants, ability to sleep and work again, and a reduction in depression, anxiety, and irritability.