Congress Expands Veteran Access to Chiropractic Services

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (the omnibus bill) passed by Congress and signed by President Trump expands access to chiropractic’s non-drug approach to pain relief for veterans, many of whom suffer from back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions.

The approved language requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to expand the availability of chiropractic services at no fewer than two medical centers or clinics in each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) no later than Dec. 31, 2019, and at no fewer than 50 percent of all medical centers in each VISN by Dec. 31, 2021. The measure also, for the first time, codifies and broadens chiropractic services in the VA to include services provided by doctors of chiropractic under the Preventive Health Services and Medical categories–in addition to existing coverage under Rehabilitative Services–placing chiropractors in service categories previously closed to them. Also, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health received an increase in funding to just over $142 million.

Earlier this year, Tennessee Chiropractic Association (TCA) leadership joined together with the hundreds of chiropractic participants who traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives during ACA’s National Chiropractic Leadership Conference (NCLC) and advocate for expanded access to chiropractic services for veterans and other concerns.

Currently, veterans have access to chiropractic services at more than 70 major VA treatment facilities in the United States, but nearly 100 VA sites offer little to no availability. This disparity comes at a time when the need for drug-free options for musculoskeletal conditions is urgent.

VA data cites “diseases of the musculoskeletal system/connective system” such as back pain as the No. 1 ailment experienced by veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who access VA treatment. Moreover, surveys show that, similar to the civilian population, many veterans struggle with prescription painkiller (opioid) addiction. Also, of note, were numerous provisions in the 2,232 pages that instruct government agencies to focus on non-opioid solutions for pain management.

The TCA is a dynamic advocate for chiropractic, driven to support all of Tennessee’s licensed chiropractic physicians, their practices, and the patients they represent. As an association, the TCA works toward equal recognition and participation for chiropractic in government health care programs, in private insurance plans, and in all other health care arenas which impact the delivery of health care to the people of Tennessee.