What It Is
The Department of Veterans Affairs will now shoulder the costs of robotic leg devices for eligible paralyzed veterans with spinal cord injuries, The Associated Press reports.
"The research support and effort to provide eligible veterans with paralysis an exoskeleton for home use is a historic move on the part of the VA because it represents a paradigm shift in the approach to rehabilitation for persons with paralysis," according to Dr. Ann Spungen, who told AP that this statement is the result of a major shift in policy. The device was previously priced at $77,000, a figure that is prohibitively expensive for most disabled veterans.
How It Works
The apparatus, called a ReWalk Personal device, permits users to stand erect and walk using "wearable brace support, a computer-based control system and motion sensors," ReWalk says. The system was approved for home use in 2014 by the FDA.
"The policy outlines a sound process to educate, train and importantly, to provide individual veterans with a so that they may walk at home and in the community," according to the press release from ReWalk company CEO Larry Jasinski. "We expect this landmark national policy will substantially improve the health and quality of life of many veterans in the years ahead."
Due to certain conditions, however, not all paralyzed veterans will be able to avail of this device. The ReWalk "only works for certain paraplegics who meet height and weight requirements," says NPR's Amy Held. That's only a fraction of the tens of thousands of paralyzed vets.
So far, it has been determined that 45 paralyzed veterans can avail of the device and have started the process of enrolling into the program, though there are tens of thousands of paralyzed vets.
AP interviewed Gene Laureano, a 53-year-old veteran who has participated in the program. " 'The tears came down,' he said. He was paralyzed years ago after falling off a ladder. 'I hadn't spoken to somebody standing up in so long. I just kept remembering the doctor told me it was impossible for me to walk, and then I crossed that threshold from the impossible to the possible.' "