Rep. Kevin Crutchfield: Biden Administration putting health care for Tar Heel state veterans at risk

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2023

North Carolina is home to over 700,000 veterans — friends, family members, and neighbors who sacrificed to serve our country. Unfortunately, many veterans who come home to the Tar Heel State return with wounds, physical and mental, that stay with them for life. While caring for our wounded servicemen and women should be our elected officials’ top priority, a government agency in Washington threatens to take critical care away from our veterans.

It’s estimated that up to 20% of veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan return from their service suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that’s triggered by the terrifying events experienced in combat. The effects of PTSD are horrible – one recent study found that 30,000 post-9/11 veterans suffering from mental health conditions have committed suicide.

However, thanks to American innovation, we’ve found new ways to treat PTSD. NightWare, an FDA-approved software that uses the Apple Watch to combat PTSD symptoms, is one of the best new tools we have to help our veterans. The software was specifically designed to treat PTSD-induced nightmares, a symptom of PTSD experienced by 80% of veterans dealing with the condition. Working in tandem with the Apple Watches’ heart rate monitoring technology, it detects PTSD-induced nightmares and delivers pulses to disrupt nightmares without interrupting sleep.

But despite Nightware’s success, one government agency is threatening to take the technology away from veterans in need. The ITC, a government agency that most Americans have never heard of, wields incredible power. The ITC has the authority to ban certain products from being

sold in the U.S. – making it a breeding ground for foreign companies looking to take down their American competitors.

A tech company called Masimo has recently filed a lawsuit with the ITC against Apple over patents used in the Apple Watch, the only product compatible with Nightware technology. The case is critical, and the consequences for veterans are serious. If the Commission decides to issue an exclusion order against the watch – effectively banning the sale of the product in the U.S. – it would take away essential care many veterans use to treat PTSD.

In theory, the ITC has rules in place to prevent frivolous lawsuits that could ban life-saving products – the Commission is legally required to consider public interest factors to protect valuable products like Nightware. However, in practice, the ITC often ignores public interest factors and has only thrown out cases based on public interest four times.

Fortunately, Sen.Thom Tillis has the voice and the power in Washington D.C. to help stop this. He already has a proven track record of protecting North Carolinians in the armed services. Not only does Senator Tillis sit on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, but he has years of experience advocating for members of the armed services, both here in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune or Fort Bragg and across the country. Senator Tillis also serves as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has oversight authority over the ITC, and that means he is well-positioned to help stop the ITC from denying veterans suffering from PTSD access to potentially life-saving technology. North Carolina veterans have sacrificed enough, and they shouldn’t have to face a challenge from their own government. Senator Tillis can help by working with the ITC to prevent this from happening, and given his record, I believe he will.

Kevin Crutchfield represents Cabarrus and Rowan counties in N.C. House District 83.