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Feb 13, 2011 8:25 PM by Matt Stafford

Sen. Udall and others fighting for coverage of TBI treatment

After three deployments in three years, and ending the last one short because his wife is sick, David Bruce, now active duty in the Air Force Reserve, has a lot on his plate.

"It just compounds, every little thing adds on." says Bruce.

Luckily he's found help at the Warrior Relaxation Response Center where the focus is cognitive behavioral therapy; teaching your brain basic skills again, like how to relax.

"It helps you get away from the stress that's going on around you," says Bruce. "It helps you refocus and handle everything else better." However, he doesn't bill his military health insurance provider, TRICARE, because it hasn't been approved for him so they won't pay for it.

"We just paid for it out of pocket because we needed it and it was available," explains Bruce.

Bruce joins a growing list who want this type of therapy covered, including Colorado Senator Mark Udall.

Udall joined 69 other members of Congress in writing a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, asking for access to the treatment for members of the military.

"I want to see it more broadly available to all service members," Senator Udall said Saturday during a press conference in Colorado Springs.

Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, director of strategic communications for Military Health Systems, says the Department of Defense covered 25,000 soldiers for this therapy in 2010. Those soldiers needed to have a physician prescribe that type of treatment for them.

"To prove it's effective takes very complex studies and there just isn't a lot in the literature," Dr. Kilpatrick says.

"I respectfully disagree," retorted Sen. Udall when asked about the depth of studies Saturday. Udall says there's enough proof the treatment is effective.

Antione Johnson agrees with Sen. Udall, and was happy about the letter to Secretary Gates. He runs the Warrior Relaxation Response Center that provides cognitive behavioral and rehabilitative therapy. He says he's had conversations with TRICARE but they won't pay for his services.

"TRICARE has not allowed me to receive funding," says Johnson. That's troubling for him because he says the soldiers he's seeing can't wait for care. Johnson knows TRICARE is studying the effectiveness of the treatment, but he also knows that won't be done until 2013.

"It's not just something we should be waiting on," says Johnson. "Who knows how long it will be."

For David Bruce, he's not waiting; he's found something that works and he's sticking with it.

"What's medicine, anything that makes you better, right?" says Bruce. "It worked for me."

Even if TRICARE doesn't pay, he'll keep paying for the treatment out of pocket.

 

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