The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
Congress is coming to a close for the year, and elected leaders are putting the final touches on the NDAA, the country’s annual defense budget, a bill that directly impacts the 300,000 veterans here in Wisconsin and their sacrifices. Unfortunately, those sacrifices often leave unseen mental scars that linger long after they’ve finished serving our country. Post-traumatic stress disorder affects up to 20% of veterans, an issue that’s rightfully received significant attention both here in Wisconsin and in our nation’s capital. Today, American innovators are making progress in the technology used to understand and treat PTSD, but in Washington, the International Trade Commission, is threatening to undermine veterans’ care and take away life-saving technology used to treat PTSD.
It’s estimated that the risk of suicide for veterans is 52% higher than nonveterans, and those statistics are largely driven by PTSD. That’s why American companies have worked hard to develop new technology that can help millions of veterans who live with PTSD. One example is NightWare, a software developed specifically to help veterans who experience PTSD-induced nightmares. Installed on the Apple Watch, NightWare uses the device’s heart monitoring capabilities to detect nightmares as they begin and disrupt them by using pulses on the wrist of the wearer that shakes them out of their dream without fully waking them. The software was so successful that it was approved by the FDA as a way for veterans to treat their PTSD.
Unfortunately, breakthroughs like NightWare are facing a serious threat from the ITC – an agency that most Wisconsinites likely haven’t heard of, but that wields an incredible amount of power despite its obscurity. That’s because the ITC has the power to issue exclusion orders, which would ban certain products from being sold in the U.S. That’s why in recent years foreign companies looking to carve out space in the U.S. market have used the Commission to make a quick buck.
Recently, the ITC issued its final determination in a case brought by AliveCor, a company that alleges Apple infringed on patents for the wearable heart monitoring technology found in the Apple Watch. Despite the fact that the US Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) ruled that some of AliveCor’s patent claims were invalid, the ITC issued a limited exclusion order against the Apple Watch, which is set to go into effect unless the Biden administration overrules the Commission’s decision.
If President Biden chooses not to overrule the ITC, the Apple Watch would be banned from being imported into the country, a move that would have dire implications for veterans. And while the ITC is supposed to consider public interest factors – like banning a product that veterans use to treat life-threatening conditions like PTSD – in its rulings, the Commission often does not.
Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin have an obligation as Wisconsinites’ representatives in Washington to prevent the ITC from taking away game-changing treatment for PTSD, and both of them hold key positions on important Senate committees, positions that should encourage them to take action. Senator Johnson sits on the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which is responsible for holding our government accountable for its actions, and Senator Baldwin is a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which makes sure Americans receive the health care they need. Our senators have a duty to protect Wisconsin veterans, who have already given up enough for their country, from the kinds of threats posed by the ITC, and now it’s time for them to step up.
— Vale is an Air Force veteran who served in the Gulf War. She is married to an Iraq War veteran and is mother to an Afghanistan War veteran. Julie is active in the American Legion, and is a lifelong member of the Disabled American Veterans. She lives in Sheboygan County, Wis.