Statement of the American Chiropractic Association in Support of S. 1204, the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Oct. 21, 2009
Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Burr, members of the Committee:
I am Dr. Rick McMichael, a Doctor of Chiropractic from Canton, Ohio, and current President of the American Chiropractic Association. On behalf of the ACA, I thank you for providing an opportunity to testify today in support of S. 1204, the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act.
The ACA provides professional and educational opportunities for doctors of chiropractic, supports research, and offers leadership for the advancement of the profession. ACA promotes the highest standards of ethics and patient care, contributing to the health and well-being of millions of chiropractic patients.
The ACA wholeheartedly supports S. 1204, as introduced by Senator Patty Murray, and believes it will assist veterans in receiving quality care, especially for the treatment of very prevalent musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. Painful and disabling joint and back disorders continue to be reported as the top health problems of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Department of Veterans Affairs’ statistics. The most recent numbers from the VA now show that over half of our returning veterans seek VA care due to musculoskeletal ailments.
A chiropractic benefit has theoretically been available within the VA system for many years, but Congress took action when it became apparent that VA had failed to take any reasonable steps to provide veterans with chiropractic care. As a result of legislation in the 107th and 108th Congress , as well as recommendations issued by a congressionally mandated advisory committee--of which I was a member--the VA now provides chiropractic care, at 36 major VA treatment facilities within the U S.
Doctors of chiropractic, practicing at these VA facilities, have become an integrated part of the VA health care team and are regarded as a valuable source of safe and effective care for veterans.
By all accounts, the care provided by DCs in the VA produces positive outcomes and high levels of patient satisfaction, and is cost-efficient. Additionally, doctors of chiropractic bring new ideas and viewpoints to patient-centered care, clinical research and education. These new perspectives help strengthen the VA and care of veterans.
Despite this progress, the overwhelming majority of America’s eligible veterans continue to be denied access to chiropractic care because the VA has not taken steps to provide these services at approximately 120 additional major VA facilities. Detroit, Denver, and Chicago are just a few examples of major metropolitan areas still lacking a Doctor of Chiropractic at the local VA medical facility. In my home state of Ohio, the only VA site that offers chiropractic care is the facility in Columbus. Another VA facility, Dayton, will soon begin to offer chiropractic services. However, major VA medical centers in Chillicothe, Cincinnati, and Cleveland do not employ DCs, and veterans in those areas are limited to chiropractic care via outside referrals, which are spotty at best.
As referenced earlier, in a VA report released just this month, nearly 52 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have sought VA health care, were treated for musculoskeletal ailments—the top complaint of those tracked for the report. Doctors of chiropractic offer expert conservative care for many of these ailments, commonly caused by injuries from combat, heavy gear, motor vehicle accidents, and blast injuries. Clearly, the need for expanded access to doctors of chiropractic and their high-touch care has never been more crucial. Without a congressional directive, further expansion to VA facilities will happen only on a case-by-case basis and more than likely will be excruciatingly slow.
Veterans want, need and deserve access to chiropractic care, and our goal should be to ensure that chiropractic is available and accessible at every major VA health care facility. The chiropractic profession welcomes the opportunity to serve our nation’s veterans. It is an honor to serve those who have given so much for us.
Passage of the Chiropractic Care Available to All Veterans Act will ensure that our veterans receive the highest level of care possible. The American Chiropractic Association urges Congress to pass this legislation immediately. I thank the Chairman for the opportunity to testify today, and look forward to any questions from the committee.
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