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Arizona-led bill could allow for new treatment for vets with brain injuries

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PHOENIX — A push in Washington, D.C. could make hyperbaric oxygen treatment available to veterans with traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.

The veterans would sit in pure oxygen chambers for hours.

“They become less stressed out, less aggressive, they can sleep better, and their IQ improves,” said Saad Allawi, director of strategy and operations for Healing Arizona Veterans.

He says the Veterans Administration has not approved this treatment to restore blood flow to the brain, although Medicare approves it for diabetes, wound care, carbon dioxide and cyanide poisoning.

A bipartisan bill from Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) could grant approval.

“If you do it in specialized hyperbaric facilities, the treatment on a nationwide basis runs between $100 and $200 an hour for 40 hours,” Allawi said.

“So, it’s not as expensive as compared to the medications that a lot of these veterans take.”

In a statement, Biggs said the treatment could reduce veteran suicides.

“This bill gives veterans an additional choice to treat these serious mental health issues,” Biggs said. “More importantly, it removes the VA’s bureaucracy from medical decisions made between the veteran and his or her doctor.”

Dr. Robert Sexton with Healing Arizona Veterans added his support.

“As Chairman of the Board of Healing Arizona Veterans, a Vietnam veteran, a military field surgeon in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a recipient of HBOT, this cause is close to my heart,” he said in a statement.

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