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  • Tuesday, March 01, 2016

    Alternative PTSD Therapy Is No. 1 Priority, Legion Tells Legislators

    Harvey McCagg

    Harvey McCagg

    ALBANY — Declaring the health and welfare of veterans as “first and foremost,” New York State American Legion Legislative Chairman Harvey McCagg said the Legion’s number one legislative priority in the state is non-drug, alternative therapy for post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) – particularly, HyperBaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT).

    Speaking at the annual “Hill Day” legislative breakfast at the Empire State Plaza, McCagg told some 140 Legion Family members and legislators that the American Legion was asking the governor and state legislature to create and fund a TBI and PTSD Biological Repair Treatment and Recovery Law.

    Legionnaires from Staten Island discuss the need for alternative therapy for post traumatic stress with Assemblyman Michael Cusick (left) following the Legion’s Hill Day legislative breakfast. The Legionnaires are, from left, Fred Lamarsh, 2nd District legislative chair; Anthony Pergola, 2nd District commander; Mary and Dennis McLoone (who conducted the POW/MIA remembrance ceremony at the legislative breakfast); and Past Department Commander Frank Peters.

    Legionnaires from Staten Island discuss the need for alternative therapy for post traumatic stress with Assemblyman Michael Cusick (left) following the Legion’s Hill Day legislative breakfast. The Legionnaires are, from left, Fred Lamarsh, 2nd District legislative chair; Anthony Pergola, 2nd District commander; Mary and Dennis McLoone (who conducted the POW/MIA remembrance ceremony at the legislative breakfast); and Past Department Commander Frank Peters.

    With 22 veteran suicides a day, the signature wounds of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are TBI and PTSD, for which the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) refuse to provide all known effective treatments. Among the most promising, he said, is HBOT. Traditionally mild TBI and PTSD have been treated as psychiatric disorders with drug therapy, but growing evidence suggests that mild TBI and PTSD may be the result of multiple concussive exposures and should therefore be treated as medical conditions, which may be healed by providing extra oxygen to the brain in a hyperbaric chamber.

    Legionnaires from across the state traveled to Albany to bring priority legislative issues to state lawmakers.

    Legionnaires from across the state traveled to Albany to bring priority legislative issues to state lawmakers.

    Other legislative priorities, McCagg said, include:

    — establishment of veterans cemeteries in underserved areas.

    — mandating that school districts hold a public forum on whether to provide a veterans tax exemption. While some districts have provided a tax exemption, many have refused to even bring it up for discussion.

    — a $150,000 grant for American Legion Boys State on the SUNY Morrisville campus.

    — $1.1 million in funding for the Veterans Defense Program (VDP), created two years ago to assist veterans in the criminal justice system struggling with service-connected behavioral health issues.

    Sen. Thomas Croci

    Sen. Thomas Croci

    Several veterans affairs legislative leaders also spoke, with Sen. Thomas D. Croci pointing out that his monthly drills as a reservist provide a perspective that “helps me, I think, in my role as chairman of the (Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs) committee.”

    He described his approach to working on veterans issues with legislators of both parties and houses this way: “I don’t care what uniform you’re wearing as long as we’re shooting in the same direction.”

    “Every legislator in our conference,” he added, “recognizes the service of our veterans.”

    Assemblyman Michael DenDekker

    Assemblyman Michael DenDekker

    Assemblyman Michael G. DenDekker, chairman of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, also referred to the cooperative spirit on veterans issues.

    He noted that “900,000 veterans in the State of New York” “make up 5 percent of the population.”

    “When you make up five percent of the population, I think you should proportionately get five percent” of the state budget, he said to applause.

    Another Senate veterans committee member, Sen. Joseph Addaboo Jr., pointed to post traumatic stress, suicide, homelessness and unemployment as top veterans issues.

    Sen. Joseph Addaboo Jr.

    Sen. Joseph Addaboo Jr.

    “The suicide rate among our veterans is far too high. We can lower that.”

    He also said they should be able to decrease the number of homeless and unemployed vets.

    “You have a voice,” he told Legionnaires, “and you’re making it heard.”

    There are a “ton of people advocating for many things” with the state legislature. “In my opinion, the veterans go to the head of the line.”

    Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor

    Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor

    Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a member of the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee, referred to the fact he had been a social studies teacher before he joined the marines, then he donned his American Legion cap and launched into a history lesson on the number of veterans who fought or stood watch from World War II to the present. He also pointed to TBI/PTSD, homelessness and suicide as “real priorities”.

    “The suicide rate among veterans is astronomically high. We need to address that in a way that brings healing.”