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06/30/2017

Pro-Chiropractic Veterans Bill Gets Hearing in U.S. Senate Committee

By: David Seaman, DCS. 609 Would Provide for Chiropractic Care and Services to All Veterans Through VA Medical Centers and Clinics by December 31, 2020.

 

On May 17, 2017, the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a committee hearing on a number of bills regarding Veterans’ health and benefits, including S. 609, the “Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act of 2017.” At the hearing, a number of veterans service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Of America (IAVA), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), the American Legion, and American Veterans (AMVETS) submitted testimony in favor of the bill. Highlights of this testimony is below. 

American Legion: “It is not uncommon for veterans who suffer from musculoskeletal and connective system diseases to go untreated at VA medical centers because of a lack of available chiropractic care and services… The American Legion, thus, views easy access to chiropractic care as a priority necessity for veterans… The American Legion supports passage of S. 609.” 

Veterans of Foreign Wars: “The VFW supports this legislation which would provide chiropractic care and services to veterans receiving health care at VA. According to VA, musculoskeletal and connective tissue diseases are commonly diagnosed medical issues for Post-9/11 veterans, with nearly 200,000 of these veterans pursuing care at VA for these conditions since 2002. Our nation is also facing an opioid epidemic, with many Americans and veterans struggling with addiction to painkillers. This is why the VFW believes it is absolutely crucial that VA be able to provide access to chiropractic care to veterans in need. Studies have long proven chiropractic adjustments can reduce chronic pain, joint swelling and inflammation. Some studies even show chiropractic care can help reduce headaches and migraines. The VFW urges Congress to pass this legislation which would help improve the quality of care veterans receive at VA, as well as provide another avenue to combat opioid addiction for patients with chronic pain.” 

Disabled American Veterans: “DAV is pleased to support this measure, which is in line with DAV Resolution No. 244, calling for veterans’ access to a ‘full continuum of care, from preventive through hospice services, including alternative and complementary care such as yoga, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and other nontraditional therapies.’ Veterans with chronic pain and other conditions that do not respond well to medical interventions are seeking alternative treatment options that do not involve use of opioids or other traditional pharmaceutical solutions. One study estimates that up to 40 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan may use complementary or alternative care practices. In the past decade, as access to chiropractic in VA has grown, veterans’ use of chiropractic services has grown dramatically. VA currently offers chiropractic services as part of its medical benefits package and VA indicates that about 65 VA medical centers have chiropractors who are integrated into primary care, rehabilitation and other specialized care teams. We caution that while some VISN and local VAMC policies restrict access to chiropractic services, VA must ensure such policies do not subvert congressional intent. This measure would ensure incremental expansion of chiropractic services at all VA facilities over the next four years, so veterans who want access to this type of care can easily access it in a VA health care setting.” 

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: “We also support the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act (S. 609), to require a program under which the VA will provide chiropractic care and services to veterans, as it is consistent with IAVA’s Policy Agenda which calls for treatment options that include the full range of traditional and experimental options that have proven to be effective.” 

AMVETS (American Veterans): “AMVETS supports this bill…” 

Paralyzed Veterans of America: “PVA supports S. 609, the ‘Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act of 2017.’ Chiropractic care is a widely accepted and invaluable medical treatment… The process of integrating chiropractic care into VA health care has been slow… Approximately 52 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking care because of musculoskeletal ailments, specifically back and joint pain. The common causes for these chronic pains are heavy gear, vehicle accidents, and blast injuries. The overwhelming majority of affected veterans still do not have readily available access to chiropractic care. With an ever present awareness of VA overreliance on pharmacological solutions for chronic pain and the resulting trends of opioid dependence and accidental overdose, PVA strongly encourages the utilization of alternative treatments.” 

Position of the Department of Veterans Affairs

While a representative from the Department of Veterans Affairs itself testified in opposition to the bill – on the grounds that adding additional chiropractic clinics could be accomplished “through VA’s existing policies and processes for hiring, credentialing, and privileging chiropractors” – they still had very good things to say about chiropractic, including:

  • “Chiropractic treatment has been shown to be clinically effective, cost effective, and in high demand by Veterans.”
  • “Patients who have access to chiropractic care are less likely to receive opiate medications and spinal surgeries.”
  • “VA has already been expanding access to chiropractic services for Veterans. Currently, about half of the Level 1a VAMCs [VA Medical Centers] have chiropractic clinics, and other facilities offer chiropractic services as well.” 

What’s Next?

The American Chiropractic Association’s Government Relations team expects S. 609 and the other health and benefits legislation discussed at the May 17 hearing to be “marked up” (debated, amended, and re-written), combined into one large “omnibus” bill, and voted on in committee later this year. 

As of June 25, 2017, neither of Michigan’s two United States Senators – Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters – have signed on to co-sponsor S. 609. The more co-sponsors a piece of legislation has, the more likely it is to be taken up for a vote and passed, so it is critical that both Senators Stabenow and Peters sign on in support of the bill. The MAC is working hard to convince them both to do so. 

YOU can help in this effort by sending Senators Stabenow and Peters an email asking them to co-sponsor and work for the passage of S. 609, the “Chiropractic Care Available for All Veterans Act of 2017.” Contact them TODAY by going to the ACA Legislative Action Center [http://cqrcengage.com/aca/action] and clicking on “Eliminating Disparities in Veterans’ Access to Chiropractic Care--Senate Version.” It’s quick, easy, and will make a difference in the fight to increase access to chiropractic among U.S. veterans in the VA!

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