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Kentucky lawmakers want to make hyperbaric treatments more accessible to vets

Veterans PTSD
Posted at 9:06 AM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 16:48:36-05

State lawmakers are pushing Kentucky's congressional delegation to make changes they believe will benefit veterans and save lives.

Forty-five years after serving in Vietnam, Eric Koleda's brother-in-law learned he had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). But when Koleda's brother-in-law sought out experimental hyperbaric treatments, he was denied because his insurance did not cover it.

"We tried to get him in the hyperbarics in Kentucky, and he was denied access to the chambers," Koleda said.

He couldn't get the treatment he wanted. Koleda couldn't believe it.

"This just isn't right," Koleda said. "Here's a treatment that's helping veterans, and they are being denied access into the chamber."

Hyperbaric treatments involve placing patients in pressurized chambers for extended periods of time. Experts say the treatment utilizes oxygen as medicine.

"It's saving lives, and it's helping veterans have some level of normalcy of where they were before they went into climate," Koleda said.

Koleda added that clinical trials prove how the treatment helps veterans.

"We're seeing dissipation of some of the symptoms of TBI veterans, so the anxiety levels, the fear, migraine headaches, the lack of sleepiness all begins dissipating as this goes through the treatments," Koleda said.

Koleda says veterans currently have to pay out of their own pocket for the treatment. He says that's because the federal government doesn't recognize it.

Kentucky State Rep. Chris Fugate, a Republican representing the state's 84th district, wants that to change.

"For those veterans who have served and have suffered these injuries, they can never turn it off," Fugate said. "They can never turn off the post-traumatic stress syndrome."

He co-sponsored legislation that would call on Kentucky's congressional representation to make a change. He believes it will pass.

"If you go back to the sacrifice they make, we owe it to them, it's our responsibility to take care of those who take care of us, and so they shouldn't have to undergo a financial burden," Fugate said.

It's a burden that both Fugate and Koleda believe should go away.

Learn more about the treatment here.

This story was originally published by Ricky Sayer on Scripps station WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky.