Law firm advocates for new treatments for war veterans

A Milwaukee-based government affairs firm is advocating for the use of new technology to make strides in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by Iraq War veterans.

Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek Government Affairs LLC (WHDGA), which has an office in Washington, D.C., represents the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) out of the University of Southern California. The ICT is developing a PTSD Immersive Cognitive Program with research and development of the project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

WHDGA is half-owned by Milwaukee-based Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. and half-owned John Rogers, a government and public affairs expert who serves as president and head of operations for WHDGA.

The PTSD Immersive Cognitive Program was created from entertainment technology from Hollywood. Virtual-reality software is implemented into a helmet for the patient, a computer for the therapist, a rifle for navigation and a platform. As the patient revisits Iraq via virtual reality, the therapist customizes the experience with the memory described by the patient. When bombs explode near the patient, effects including a platform vibration trigger the exact memory and help the patient face his or her traumatic memories.

PTSD is caused by an individual suppressing a memory. By bring the memory out in the open and then “reliving” it, the brain becomes habituated to the experience and PTSD symptoms are significantly reduced, according to many therapists.

WHDGA is currently housing the PTSD Immersive Cognitive Program in its Washington office to offer trials and research findings to elected officials and other decision-makers involved in the federal government. WHDGA needs to rally support for funding so the Army is able to purchase the technology to use with its soldiers and to advertise ICT’s PTSD therapy technology as the best choice, Rogers said.

“(Our goal is) to educate the decision-makers about the different kinds of tools that are available, along with how the technology can be used, coupled with the cognitive and clinical psychologist in treating PTSD,” Rogers said. “It is very much intended to showcase the technology to the decision-makers.”

The Army is experiencing an increased number of soldiers with traumatic brain injury (TBI), mainly stemming from the soldiers being better protected. Their mortality rate has decreased, but their injury rate has increased compared with casualties in past wars, Rogers said.

“We work very closely with the Department of Defense, and Congress has really stepped up and is trying to address PTSD and TBI in a big way,” Rogers said.

Rogers is from Wisconsin and was previously appointed by President Bill Clinton to the posts of Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Plans and Operation for the Department of Defense.

Rogers also previously served as the key facilitator between the Department of Defense, the White House and Congress on issues including military base closures, military base re-use efforts, technology reinvestment programs and privatization issues.

Rogers founded Capstone International, a Washington-based government and public affairs business. When he and his wife decided to move back to Wisconsin, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek was interested in expanding its government affairs practice, and the two entities joined forces.

“The goal for the therapy is to expand the clinical studies,” Rogers said. “There have been some (therapies) that have been very successful. We want to expand so therapeutic treatment is available much more broadly than it is currently.”

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