Congress Expands Veterans’ Ability to See a Chiropractor!
The ACA and Congress Agree—Every Veteran Deserves Access to a Chiropractor!
Great news! Last month, after hundreds of chiropractors met with congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., Congress passed a law expanding veteran access to seeing a chiropractor!
This landmark bill addresses longstanding issues with the VA’s ability to provide consistent levels of care across the country. It’s also a huge step in getting vets access to safe, drug-free treatments as the nation grapples with opioid abuse.
Let’s go deeper into how the ACA helped this happen, what the law does, and why and how veterans should consider chiropractic treatment.
The American Chiropractic Association Advocated for Expanded Access
People who haven’t been following these developments might wonder where this law came from. When Congress often seems so gridlocked, how did we achieve this great victory for veterans and chiropractic?
It couldn’t have happened without the help of hundreds of chiropractors from the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
On March 1st, 2018, over 600 members of the ACA including chiropractors, students, and other supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. They convened this meeting as part of the ACA’s annual meeting, the National Chiropractic Leadership Conference (NCLC).
The NCLC is “the premier national conference for chiropractors, chiropractic assistants and chiropractic doctoral students.” At the NCLC, members participate in professional briefings, education programs, advocacy training, and meetings with colleagues and elected officials from across the country.
NCLC attendees met with congressional representatives to advocate for expanded access to chiropractic services for Veterans.
They first heard from Congress members who spoke on the importance of educating elected officials about how a chiropractor enhances patient care, especially for veterans. They expressed support for the ACA’s initiatives to expand patients’ healthcare options for seniors and vets.
At an ACA Political Action Committee event that morning, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) called the limited benefits currently available to seniors an “outdated” and “antiquated” system. “Full chiropractic services should be a part of the Medicare program. I will be supportive of you,” he said.
Attendees then headed to Capitol Hill to continue advocating for expanded access.
Mere weeks later, on March 22nd, the House of Representatives passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. The Senate passed the bill later that night, less than 24 hours ahead of a possible government shutdown. President Trump signed the bill into law on March 23rd.
What Does the New Law Do?
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 is a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package. It allocates spending for everything from homeland security, to environmental protection, to education, and more. It also includes a plan to expand access to chiropractic care and drug-free pain relief for veterans.
There are two important components to that plan:
- Expanding chiropractic services across the VA’s network of facilities.
- Placing chiropractors in service categories previously closed to them.
Currently, chiropractic services are only available at about 70 major VA treatment facilities. Meanwhile, over 100 VA sites offer little to no access to those services. This plan would address this disparity and help close the gap in availability.
The new law requires the VA to expand access to chiropractic care in at least two clinics or medical centers in each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) by 2020. By 2022, the VA has to extend that coverage to at least half of all medical centers in each VISN.
The law also codifies and broadens chiropractic services in the VA by reconsidering the service categories which a chiropractor can serve under. Currently, chiropractic care is only offered through the Rehabilitative Services category. For the first time, chiropractic services will also be offered through the Preventative Health Services and Medical categories.
This means the law will have two effects. First, doctors of chiropractic will be available at more VA facilities. Second, a chiropractor provides their services in a broader context of prevention, treatment, and total health, rather than only for rehabilitation. As a result, chiropractic care will be available for a wider variety of situations at those facilities.
Why Do Veterans Need Access to Chiropractic Care?
According to VA data, “diseases of the musculoskeletal system/connective system” are the number one reason veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan access VA treatment. Among veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn, over 62% of vets who sought VA health care over the past 14 years were treated for low back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Healthcare providers treat those conditions largely with prescription painkillers including opioids. As a result, many vets struggle with opioid addiction, much like the civilian population.
Chiropractic care offers an effective, drug-free alternative that relieves veterans’ pain without the risk of addiction.
In fact, chiropractic care is proven to reduce prescriptions to addictive opioids. While primary care MDs write 28.8% of opioid prescriptions, doctors of chiropractic (DCs) write 0%. Seeing a chiropractor also reduces the number of patient visits to primary care MDs. That’s because 94% of low back pain patients significantly reduce their pain after just 4 weeks of chiropractic. This is why a higher number of chiropractors per capita correlates to a lower number of opioid prescriptions in that region.
That’s why the healthcare establishment has started recommending chiropractic as the first line of defense for low back pain. For example, the American College of Physicians (ACP) published new guidelines for lower back pain treatment last year. It recommends the use of spinal manipulation and other non-invasive drug-free chiropractic treatments before resorting to drug therapies.
How Can a Veteran Access Chiropractic Services?
Chiropractic services are currently part of the VA/DoD guidelines on treating back pain and are part of standard VA benefits. Veterans receive these benefits by requesting a referral with their VA primary care provider (PCP). The VA facility then either fills the request with an on-site chiropractic clinic or sends the vet to a private chiropractor through a community care mechanism like the Choice Program.
However, many vets find that their requests for referrals are denied. Other times they’re forced to jump through many hoops to get the referral. Many VA facilities try to save money denying referrals where they’d have to pay for fee-based chiropractic care.
This is against VA policy and the VA’s mission of being “veteran-centered.” If you feel you were unfairly denied chiropractic care, you should make a complaint with your PCP’s patient advocate. If that’s not successful, you should bring it to the attention of a Veteran’s Service Organization like the Wounded Warrior Project, the American Legion, or Veterans of Foreign Wars.
If you’re a veteran seeking chiropractic care in Algonquin, IL or Lake in the Hills, IL, you deserve to be able to find a local chiropractor to meet your needs. Dr. Galante at Algonquin Chiropractic Center has been treating low back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions for over 25 years and is certified in the Cox Technic, Sports Medicine and other methods proven to reduce pain and quality of life.
Contact your PCP today, and give us a call about our services.
Our veterans have proudly served us—and we’re proud to serve them.