Today, Congressman Scott Perry introduced the TREAT PTSD Act to provide Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) access to a lifesaving therapy – stellate ganglion block or SGB. This legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Greg Murphy (R-NC), and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX).
“Our Nation has a moral duty to take care of our Veterans who have risked everything to protect our freedoms and American way of life,” said Perry, a combat Veteran with more than 38 years of military service. “Far too many of our Veterans come home only to find the war came home with them. Our current treatments for PTSD are only providing relief to a fraction of our affected Veterans, and some encouraging treatments are being left on the table. We cannot allow our Veterans to go untreated, and I’ve created legislation to provide our hometown heroes with unrestricted access to a promising treatment for PTSD.”
An estimated 11-20 percent of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom Veterans are diagnosed with PTSD in a given year. In addition, 12 percent of Gulf War Veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam Veterans suffer with PTSD annually. Unfortunately, only 40 percent of Veterans find relief from PTSD with current treatments. Left untreated, PTSD can take a severe toll on the physical and mental health of our heroes. Persistent PTSD has a strong link to suicide, and our current dismal treatment rate is directly contributing to the 20 Veteran suicides our country experiences every day.
Perry’s proposal provides hope to our Veterans. The Treatment and Relief through Emerging and Accessible Therapy for (TREAT) PTSD Act requires the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide SGB therapy to Veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
SGB therapy is a simple outpatient procedure that has been used since the 1920s to relieve chronic pain. In 2008, researchers discovered that the treatment, which injects an anesthetic agent onto a collection of nerves in the neck, alleviated common PTSD symptoms including hyper-arousal, exaggerated startle responses, and anxiety by calming the activation of the patient’s “fight or flight” response. Further research found that the physical relief of PTSD symptoms through SGB therapy enabled patients to better engage in traditional PTSD treatments, such as talk therapy, and brought long-term relief and healing from PTSD. Recipients of SGB therapy have characterized the treatment as nothing short of lifesaving.
As of 2018, only 11 out of 143 VA facilities reported using the procedure to treat PTSD. Presently, someone suffering with PTSD must fail traditional therapies before SGB can become an option. The Perry bill removes these roadblocks and ensures that SGB therapy is a frontline option and available nationwide, a key measure for Veterans geographically and financially challenged in finding treatment options.
“Having had the privilege to wear the uniform, it’s impossible to just sit back and watch as our brothers- and sisters-in-arms face down daily depression, drug use, divorce and death when viable relief is available,” said Perry. “My proposal simply expands access to a treatment that can ease suffering for those with service-related PTSD.”
“It’s estimated that 20 veterans per day take their own life, oftentimes due to the invisible wounds of war,” said Congressman Zeldin. “Every time we lose a veteran due to the mental wounds of war, it is a failure on the part of the nation they served. We must ensure our servicemembers have access to every resource available as they transition back into civilian life, and cutting edge options like SGB therapy should be a part of VA provided, lifesaving treatment. I thank my friend and fellow veteran Congressman Perry for spearheading the effort to codify access to this ground-breaking therapy into law.”
“Unfortunately, many veterans will suffer with PTSD throughout their entire lives, which is why it’s important for them to have a multitude of treatments at their disposal,” said Congressman Murphy. “The TREAT PTSD Act represents one more of those options. As a physician who has treated veterans, I believe all viable PTSD treatments should be available to them through VA healthcare providers. Our veterans have served and sacrificed so much for our nation, and we must work to ensure that they have the best healthcare options possible.”
“Veterans from different missions, branches, and generations can tell you: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder does not discriminate. It debilitates some of America’s strongest men and women. SBG therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD. Yet, incredibly, we are not providing veterans with access to this cutting-edge treatment. I’m glad to partner with Rep. Scott Perry to change this and ensure easy access to SBG therapy for servicemembers in need,” said Congressman Crenshaw.