When the US Department of Veteran Affairs paid for Retired US Army Sergeant Theresa Hannigan's ReWalk exoskeleton, it also decided to pick up the tab for other vets. Now, the agency has made it official: it has recently sent out a memorandum that outlines its plans to train staff in a dozen centers -- though there are plans to expand even further in the future -- to be able to fit more paralyzed veterans with ReWalk. The product, if you recall, is a robotic exoskeleton that attaches to the users' legs and helps them walk again. The FDA cleared it for home use last year, but you don't exactly see a lot of paraplegics use it, because it costs a whopping $77,000.
AP says sales have been slow since the FDA approval, but the company's hoping that the Veteran Affairs' support will compel more insurance companies to agree to cover it for their customers. VA has already looked at the applications of 45 veterans that meet the height and weight requirements needed to be able to operate the exoskeleton, but it hasn't announce anything formal yet. Based on previous tests, anyone lucky enough to get a ReWalk will experience better bowel/bladder control and reduced back pain, not to mention they'll become a lot more independent by being able to stand and walk on their own again.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Mel Evans]