House Committee Investigates How to Connect Injured Veterans with Innovative Treatment

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Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, July 21, 2010, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) led a roundtable discussion to review innovative treatment options for veterans injured while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.  More than 20 participants shared relevant information concerning treatment tools that have been developed or are in development concerning traumatic brain injury and combat stress, which are viewed as the signature wounds of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.  The less-formal roundtable setting allowed participants to speak directly with representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DOD).  

 
“Today’s roundtable participants include scientists whose research is paving the way for new PTSD and TBI treatment methods, companies that are pioneering innovations in this area, and practitioners who are leading the way to make innovative treatment tools available to our veterans with PTSD and TBI,” said Chairman Filner.  “As we explore ways that we can better serve our veterans with PTSD and TBI, it only makes sense to bring the innovators together.  My hope is that today’s roundtable serves as a springboard for further discussions, spurs new innovations for treating PTSD and TBI, and exposes veterans to new and effective treatment methods.” 
 
Of the more than 2 million service members that have been deployed to war zones, 1.15 million have separated from the military and are eligible for VA health care.  Recent analysis of VA’s health care utilization data showed that 500,000 veterans are accessing VA health care.  VA reports that of OEF and OEF veterans, nearly half receive mental health treatment, 1 in 4 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and 1 in 10 have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.   
 
Current treatment of PTSD and TBI has evolved to the point where there are good treatments available; however, there is a lack of empirical evidence regarding the efficacy of these treatments. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence supporting the use of certain therapies, including exposure therapy where a veteran repeatedly confronts feared situations and memories, stress inoculation training where a veteran learns a variety of approaches to manage anxiety, eye movement desensitization which uses rhythmic stimulation combined with exposure therapy, group therapy to share thoughts and experiences, and pharmacotherapy which incorporates medication.  Roundtable participants also discussed hyperbaric oxygen therapy, psychiatric service dogs, and off-label uses for drugs currently on the market, among other less-proven but often effective treatment methods. 
“I know that if my child or spouse suffered from these injuries, I would want access to innovative treatments,” said Chairman Filner.  “With a growing number of veterans living with brain injury and working to overcome combat stress, we clearly see the need for timely delivery of a wide-range of treatment methods.  As we learn more about these emerging injuries from today’s battlefields, the departments charged with caring for our service members and veterans must be diligent in not only identifying effective treatments, but bringing those treatments to the those who need them.”  
 
Participant List

  1. Paul Harch, M.D., Board Certified Hyperbaric and Emergency Medicine Physician, International Hyperbaric Medical Association
  2. Patrick Elliott, DO, FACS, Medical Director, Hyperbaric Therapy USA, Center of Excellence
  3. Armando Gonzalez, Chief Executive Officer, Healthcare Solutions Network of North Carolina, Inc.
  4. Charles E. Levy, M.D., Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services, North Florida Foundation for Research and Education, Inc.
  5. Craig T. Love, Ph.D., Senior Study Director, Westat
  6. Xuejun Wen, M.D., Ph.D., Hansjorg Wyss Endowed Chair Professor in Regenerative Medicine, Department of Bioengineering, Cell Biology and Anatomy, Orthopedic Surgery, Hollings Cancer Center, Clemson University and Medical University of South Carolina

  1. Gerald Grant, M.D., Associate Professor, Pediatric Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center
  2. Troy Lisa Holbrook, M.S., Ph.D., Director, EPI-SOAR Consulting
  3. Cpt. Ben Balough, Deputy Director for Clinical Research, Navy Medical Research and Development Center
  4. Eugene Lipov, M.D., DABA, FABA, Medical Director, Advanced Pain Centers, S.C.
  5. Barbara Rothbaum, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor in Psychiatry, Director, Trauma and Anxiety, Emory University
  6. Dawson Church, Ph.D., Executive Director, Soul Medicine Institute
  7. 2nd Lt. Olli Toukolehto, Co-Investigator, Soul Medicine Institute
  8. Paul D. Sexton, MBA, Chief Operating Officer-Business Operations, Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group
  9. Alan Ross, Managing Partner, Ross & Ross
  10. Carey D. Balaban, Ph.D., Professor of Otolaryngology, Neurobiology, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh
  11. David Feinstein, Ph.D., Psychologist
  12. Norman Salem, Jr., Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President of Research, Martek
  13. Katherine M. Helmick, MS, CNRN, CRNP, Senior Executive Director, Traumatic Brain Injury Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, U.S. Department of Defense
  14. Lt. Col. Christopher Robinson, USAF, BSC, Ph.D., MPH, Senior Executive for Psychological Health, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, U.S. Department of Defense
  15. Madhulika Agarwal, M.D., MPH, Chief Patient Care Services Officer, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  16. Suzanne Pineles, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, VA Boston Healthcare System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
 
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Prepared testimony and a link to the webcast are available on the internet at this link: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/hearing.aspx?newsid=605.

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