The ReWalk exoskeleton device has become a stunning marvel for paralyzed individuals, and after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the use of the system in the community and at home in late June, it has changed the lives of some wounded soldiers.

Improving the lives of servicemembers
A feature by the Military Times Group tells the story of 30-year-old, Marine Capt. Derek Herrera, who was paralyzed by a sniper's bullet in Afghanistan June 2012. The 6-foot 2-inch Naval Academy graduate goes about his day by wheelchair for a majority of the time, but three times a week, Herrera, an active duty servicemember in a special operations unit, straps himself into the ReWalk exoskeleton device and strolls the floors of a physical therapy room at 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion. 

The best part about the experience, Herrera said, is the ability to talk to people at eye level once again.

"Being able to look at a person at eye level is awesome. It's not something you'd probably think about unless you spent most of your time sitting," Herrera told Military Times.

But that's not the only benefit paralyzed servicemembers and other people get from using the technology.

Improving health one step at a time
Paralyzed individuals face many additional health complications due to prolonged time sitting. Muscle mass decreases, bone density is negatively affected, stamina plummets and overall health can be reduced because of difficulty exercising and being active. According to an NBC news health report, however, the ReWalk can help paralyzed individuals regain their strength and improve their health.

Additionally, many say that the psychological affects of walking can be hugely beneficial for paralyzed people. Standing and walking again can be a huge boost for people coping with a spinal injury. Herrera told Military Times that, although his wheelchair is quicker and more agile, he would choose ReWalk's braces and standing supports over sitting.

The future for the ReWalk
Now that the device is cleared for use in the U.S., many are taking advantage of the system, but the $69,500 exoskeleton is not cheap for individuals. Few health insurers offer to cover ReWalk, and Defense Health Agency officials have not considered whether Tricare will cover the expense either, according to Military Times. That may change according to an article in The Boston Globe.

An official from Argo Medical Technologies Inc. – the facility that developed the ReWalk – told The Boston Globe that the ReWalk may save users up to $30,000 by preventing other health issues linked to prolonged sitting in wheelchairs. Those savings could be alluring to insurers, but the process to cover ReWalk will be slow, according to Tony Dodek, the associate chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. 

Dodek told The Boston Globe a fair amount of scientific evidence must be explored by a central Blue Cross Blue Shield committee, which could take up to six months. After that, the 37 Blue Cross Blue Shield member companies will decide individually whether to reimburse ReWalk buyers.