Millions of Americans who serve in our armed services often return home with trauma that goes unnoticed. Today, our country is home to over 19 million veterans, many of whom carry unseen scars of combat that remain long after their physical wounds heal. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects millions of veterans every year, and while American innovation is creating better ways to treat PTSD, those solutions are under threat from the International Trade Commission (ITC), a government agency with far-reaching powers.
As a retired U.S. Army Captain and Purple Heart recipient, I’ve seen firsthand how the government can – and should – respect and care for Americans who have served our country. Unfortunately it seems that in this case, the ITC has forgotten that obligation to those who have served.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), up to 29% of veterans who served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, and it’s estimated that 21% of Gulf War veterans and 10% of Vietnam War veterans experience PTSD after their service. Overall, the risk for suicide among veterans is 52% higher than among nonveterans – a number largely driven by PTSD. Fortunately, breakthrough technologies are helping the millions of servicemen and women who deal with PTSD. NightWare, for example, an FDA-approved software installed on the Apple Watch, uses the watch’s heart-monitoring technology to disrupt PTSD-induced nightmares that contribute to veteran suicides via pulses on the user’s wrist, which rouses them from nightmares without fully waking them up.
Unfortunately, this technology is being threatened by overreach from the ITC, an agency that was originally founded to protect the American people and U.S. businesses from shady foreign trade practices. In a critical case brought before the ITC, a tech company called AliveCor sued Apple over wearable heart monitoring patents used in the Apple Watch. The ITC has taken the extreme step of issuing an exclusion order – a legal tool used by the ITC to block products from being imported into the U.S. – against the Apple Watch, effectively banning the sale of the watch, the only product that supports the life-saving technology offered by NightWare, a move with serious consequences for our nation’s combat veterans.
By law, the ITC should consider the consequences of issuing an exclusion order before it hands down a final ruling, however, in recent years the Commission has failed to properly account for the public interest as required by law – the ITC has only altered its rulings based on public interest a handful of times since 1975. In the case between Apple and AliveCor, the implication for veterans is alarming. Veterans across the country who could benefit from NightWare-equipped Apple Watches won’t be able to buy potentially life-saving products because the ITC is being taken advantage of by greedy bad actors.
After the ITC issued its final determination, President Biden had the chance to veto the decision, but unfortunately he decided to let the ITC’s decision stand. Now, the fate of an innovative technology that provides a life-saving treatment to the millions of American veterans who deal with PTSD will be decided through a lengthy appeals process. Something needs to change – the need for ITC reform is clear. Our veterans have sacrificed enough, and they shouldn’t have to face a challenge from their own government. We need elected leaders in Washington, including President Biden, to act quickly and fix the ITC’s basic, fundamental flaws.
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