No Hero Left Untreated Act (HR 5600, 114th Congress)

The Policy

What it does

Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide access to magnetic EEG/EKG-guided resonance therapy technology to veterans.

Synopsis

Magnetic EEG/EKG-guided resonance therapy (MeRT) has shown success in treating veterans suffering from a range of diseases, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), military sexual trauma (MST), chronic pain, and opiate addiction. H.R. 5600, the No Hero Left Untreated Act, directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to create a pilot program that will assess whether the VA can use MeRT to treat larger populations of veterans suffering from any of the above-listed conditions.

The program will take place at five or fewer VA facilities, including the VA’s Center for Innovation, and will last one year. Within 90 days of the pilot program’s conclusion, the Secretary will submit a report to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs.

H.R. 5600 will not modify any existing legislation.  

The Science

Science Synopsis

MeRT combines electroencephalography (EEG) with magnetic resonance therapy (MRT). MRT itself uses an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) to measure characteristics of the patient’s heart activity.

EEG is a non-invasive, well-established, and safe diagnostic technique. To conduct an EEG, small metal discs that record the electrical activity of the brain are placed along the scalp. The electrical activity is displayed as a series of waves that can be used to determine brain activity.

MRT, a variation of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), is a proposed treatment for some neurological disorders, especially PTSD. TMS is a non-invasive procedure wherein an electromagnetic coil is placed near the outside of the head. The magnetic coil induces an electrical field that stimulates a targeted region of the brain. TMS is well-studied, FDA approved, and used mainly for treatment of depression in cases where antidepressant medications are ineffective.

The main difference between MRT and TMS lies in the electrical frequency at which the stimulation occurs. MRT is designed to be targeted to the specific patient, using an electrical frequency based on the person’s brain wave frequency and resting heart rate. The heart rate is measured through the EKG, itself a common and safe diagnostic test wherein electrodes are placed on various parts of the body so as to measure the heart’s electrical activity. This sort of targeted therapy that MRT provides is thought to improve disease outcome compared to traditional TMS. However, while TMS is well studied, there is very little scientific literature on MRT’s effectiveness for treating neurological disorders.

Nonetheless, it has been suggested that MeRT could be used to help treat PTSD, TBI, MST, chronic pain, and opiate addiction.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is “a mental health condition that's triggered by a terrifying event.” In 2009 the NIH estimated that 7.7 million people suffer from PTSD in the United States. The NIH also estimated that 31 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 20 percent of Iraq War veterans suffer from PTSD.
  • A traumatic brain injury occurs when the head is hit, jolted, or penetrated. The severity of a TBI can vary, manifesting as mild conditions like a loss of consciousness or concussion to severe conditions like coma or death. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.7 million people suffer a TBI each year. TBIs can lead to long-term neurological diseases such as depression or in extreme cases chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
  • Military sexual trauma is sexual assault or harassment that occurs while someone is in the military. The VA’s national veteran screening program revealed that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men reported experiencing a trauma of this sort.
  • Opiate addiction arises due to dependence on prescription medications to relieve chronic pain. Chronic pain is persistent, long-lasting pain that can be both physical and psychological. Opiate addiction is fairly common in the military; 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD also have substance abuse problems.

A clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of MeRT on veterans with PTSD was started in May of 2015, with results expected in June 2018.


The Debate

Endorsements & Opposition

At present, there have not been publicly reported endorsements or opposition to this bill.