Vet News: DVA Secretary Principi Green-Lights Chiropractic Care for America's Veteran

Washington, DC - The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and the Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) commended Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) Secretary Anthony Principi for issuing an historic and far-reaching blueprint for formalizing the full inclusion of chiropractic care into the massive Veterans health care system in the United States. Secretary Principi’s decision today to implement more than three dozen recommendations made by a multi-disciplinary health care advisory panel will dramatically improve the quality of care available to millions of Veterans in the U.S. and increase access to chiropractic care for every veteran who wants or needs to see a doctor of chiropractic. The Secretary’s bold action originated with legislative directives from Congress in 2002 and 2003 - passed at the urging of the ACA, the ACC and America’s Veterans - to establish a permanent chiropractic benefit through the DVA system and authorize the DVA to hire and employ doctors of chiropractic as care providers.

"This is a great victory for Veterans and an historic new opportunity for doctors of chiropractic across America," said ACA President and U.S. Navy veteran Donald Krippendorf, DC. "Secretary Principi always makes certain that Veterans come first. He’s done so today by acting decisively to bring chiropractic care into Veterans hospitals from coast-to-coast and to make doctors of chiropractic full partners in providing care to all those who answered our country’s call to serve."

Since the creation of the DVA health system, the nation’s doctors of chiropractic (DCs) have been kept outside the system and all but prevented from providing proven, cost-effective and much-needed care to Veterans, including those among the most vulnerable and in need of the range of the health care services DCs are licensed to provide. In 2002, 4.5 million patients received care in DVA health facilities, including 75% of all disabled and low-income Veterans. Although the DVA health care budget is roughly $26 billion, in 2002, less than $370,000 went toward chiropractic services for Veterans.

In issuing today’s order to his department to begin inclusion of chiropractic care, Secretary Principi specifically acknowledged that the goal is "to ensure that chiropractic care is ultimately available and accessible to Veterans who need it throughout the DVA system."

Several key elements of Secretary Principi’s blueprint were strongly supported by the ACA and the ACC, including:

  • DVA’s endorsement of the integration of full-scope chiropractic care (under applicable state law) into all missions of the DVA health care system, including patient care, education, research and response to disasters and national emergencies, and DVA facilities across the country.
  • DVA’s endorsement of a successful and patient-friendly model - essentially based on the operations of Bethesda National Naval Medical Center - of full integration of doctors of chiropractic as partners in health care teams.
  • Inclusion of chiropractic care into the VA’s funding of research into treatment of service-connected conditions.
  • Inclusion of chiropractic colleges and students in training programs at VA facilities.
  • Establishment of a goal to ensure continuity of chiropractic care for newly discharged Veterans who have been receiving chiropractic care through the Defense Department health care system.

Jean Moss, DC, President of the ACC, commended Principi’s decision to integrate chiropractic care into the DVA health system, saying, "The administration, faculty and students of chiropractic colleges across America are delighted that Secretary Principi has taken steps to ensure that DCs can now directly contribute to the health and well-being of Veterans. I am pleased, too, that chiropractic college students will become eligible to participate in internship programs at DVA hospitals and that a fair share of federal research funding will be directed to further documenting the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care."

Dr. Krippendorf added, "The ACA is a membership organization that is comprised of thousands of hard-working health professionals who are pillars of their communities in all 50 states. Our advocacy for full inclusion of chiropractic care in the DVA system is part of our broader campaign to ensure that DCs and their patients are treated fairly in all of the Federal government’s health care programs and initiatives. We’ve made great progress across the board, but the fight for fairness continues and the ACA is ever vigilant."

In addition to legislation authorizing the DVA to employ chiropractors (Public Law 108-170), ACA-backed bills to test expanded access to chiropractic services under Medicare (Public Law 108-173) and to accelerate the implementation of chiropractic care in the military (Public Law 108-136) were also signed into law by President Bush in 2003. In 2004, the ACA will make it a priority to ensure that Secretary Principi’s recommendations are speedily implemented, and work with Congress on new legislation to ensure that chiropractic patients are never wrongly denied access to care. There are about 60,000 DCs in the U.S. and an estimated 25 million chiropractic patients.

"Today’s historic action involved the hard work and determined efforts of several members of the DVA’s Chiropractic Advisory Committee, including Drs. Reed Phillips, Cynthia Vaughn and Rick McMichael," said ACA Chairman and Army veteran George McClelland, DC. "These outstanding leaders have helped improve America’s Veterans health care system, eliminated discriminatory practices against their fellow DCs and won meaningful protections for a most deserving group of chiropractic patients."

SOURCE: PR Newswire

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