Valley nonprofits underwrite therapy for veterans that the VA & insurance still won’t cover
Valley Marine combat veteran Travis Blow keeps a snapshot of his medicine cabinet on his cellphone three years ago as a reminder of how far he’s come. “As a society, we’re OK with giving a whole bunch of drugs to veterans that already have issues because of what they’ve done and seen and most of those prescriptions have side effects of suicidal thoughts. You get stuck in a hole and can’t dig yourself out,” he said.
The photo shows baskets and shelves of bottles and 53 prescription medications he was taking twice a day for PTSD and other combat injuries. “Pain medication, depression and anxiety, anything that could help. And then I would have to take pills to counteract some of the pills that I was taking,” Blow said. “It was a nightmare.”
Nothing was working. He did two tours in Fallujah, where his best friend died in his arms. “We really didn’t mourn that loss because we had missions to do. You have to bury it down and keep moving,” Blow said. He lost even more battle brothers to suicide after returning home and came close to doing the same himself.
Even with a wife and son, Blow couldn’t see a way out. “I had a plan. I knew where I was going to do it and I knew when I was going to do it,” he said. Then he got a phone call that changed everything.
Valley Gold Star Mom Debbie Lee, who started America’s Mighty Warriors to honor her son who was the first Navy SEAL killed In Iraq, paid to get Blow into hyperbaric oxygen therapy. “After the first 10 sessions, I was sleeping. I slept for probably 10 hours when before I was only sleeping three, maybe four hours,” he said.
Lori Klauber runs Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy of Arizona and showed us how it works. The pressurized chamber looks like a submarine capsule. It pumps in 100% pure oxygen while you’re at the equivalent of being up to 66 feet below sea level. “The pressure dissolves the oxygen into the plasma, cerebral spinal fluid and all the clear liquids in the body. So, if the cells are functioning at a higher level, things are going to heal,” Klauber said.
It’s FDA-approved for more than a dozen ailments, from carbon monoxide poisoning to diabetic neuropathy. And while several studies have shown it can help with PTSD and TBI, it’s not covered by insurance or the VA. “I don’t understand why it’s not better accepted. But it should be,” Klauber said. “I see so many of these guys, that it makes such a difference in their life. And it’s just very rewarding.”
“I’m here today because it works,” said Blow. Blow managed to wean himself off all but two of those 53 prescriptions. It’s a point of pride he wears with a metal band stamped with the names of his fallen brothers on his wrist. “I’m just grateful to be alive. And now I can actually honor my brothers in the right way, by living the best life I can.”
Some states have set aside money specifically to cover this kind of treatment for veterans. Arizona lawmakers did as well, but Gov. Doug Ducey pulled the funding from that bipartisan effort in a line-item budget veto in August 2022. State house lawmakers are pushing to revive that effort and congressional lawmakers have a bipartisan measure working its way through D.C. right now to try and launch a pilot program with the VA to offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments for PTSD.