Lawmakers Criticize Veterans Affairs Witnesses

Lawmakers Criticize Veterans Affairs Witnesses
On Inadequate Chiropractic Policy

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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Medical Lobby Assails Efforts to Expand Access To Chiropractic Care

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2000 /PRNewswire/ --
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) and other chiropractic groups testified in favor of direct access to chiropractic and full scope of services for veterans Tuesday during a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.

During the hearing, congressional lawmakers sharply criticized officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for that agency's failure to take aggressive action to ensure that veterans are provided with chiropractic care.

"Congress, as early as 1978, authorized VA to provide chiropractic services to eligible veterans," Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), subcommittee chairman, said during the hearing on chiropractic services in the VA. "But over the period of its existence, VA has never employed its first chiropractor as a VA staff practitioner in this professional field; has never developed, without prodding from Congress, any meaningful policy on chiropractic care; and until this hearing, has never had to defend its decisions to severely restrict or deny chiropractic care to veterans.

"In this member's opinion," Stearns continued, "if a health care service is licensed and fully legitimate in all 50 states and abroad, if millions of Americans are willingly paying for this service every day, if health insurers -- and even the federal Medicare program -- approve reimbursements for the service as a routine activity of doing business ... then VA needs to better articulate why VA seems to deny these services to eligible veterans."

Stearns' comments were echoed by other members of the committee who were present at the hearing, including Representatives Bob Filner (D-CA) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

While the VA was harshly criticized by members of Congress, prominent medical organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) attempted to block efforts by the ACA and other chiropractic groups that were pushing for legislation that would mandate access to chiropractic on a "direct access" and "full scope of practice" basis.

In response, the ACA and other chiropractic groups pointed out that chiropractic adjustments have been proven effective for the nation's military personnel. Reports from the Department of Defense Chiropractic Health Care Demonstration Project (CHCDP), recently completed at military treatment facilities across the country, show that chiropractic care not only reduced disability and improved patient satisfaction, but also could potentially save 199,000 work days per year for the DOD. "I believe the benefits of chiropractic care will continue to be proven with the addition of chiropractic services in the military health care system," said ACA representative Rick McMichael, DC, a member of the CHCDP Oversight Committee.

"It should be noted that doctors of chiropractic are licensed and regulated in all 50 states as independently practicing health care professionals," Dr. McMichael continued. "All of these jurisdictions recognize chiropractors' rights and responsibilities to serve as first- contact, portal-of-entry providers. As such, doctors of chiropractic possess the diagnostic skills necessary to differentiate health conditions that are amenable to their management from those conditions that require referral or co-management with another professional." Dr. McMichael pointed to the extensive academic and clinical training doctors of chiropractic receive through accredited chiropractic colleges across the country - training that includes the use of diagnostics and therapeutics.

Also testifying on behalf of the chiropractic profession were representatives of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) and the International Chiropractors Association (ICA).

The hearing came just days after an amendment regarding chiropractic care for veterans prepared by staff of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and due to be inserted in legislation pending before the full U.S. House of Representatives was dropped from inclusion in the overall measure after the ACA and other groups rejected the staff-authored proposal as being woefully "inadequate." Preparation of the congressional staff-authored proposal came after the ACA, ACC and ICA urged the House Veterans Affairs Committee to include a "full scope and direct access" chiropractic provision in H.R. 5109 (the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Personnel Act of 2000) when that bill was "marked-up" by the House VA Committee on September 13. At the committee's mark-up session, several members of the committee indicated their support for including a chiropractic-related amendment in the bill -- provided acceptable legislative language could be agreed upon -- prior to a vote on the measure by the full House of Representatives.

The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) is the largest chiropractic organization in the country, representing nearly 20,000 members. Chiropractic is the third largest doctoral-level health care profession in the western world after medicine and dentistry. In the United States, the governments of all states license and regulate doctors of chiropractic as independently practicing health care professionals. The major treatment applied by doctors of chiropractic is spinal adjustment or manipulation to correct a subluxation.

SOURCE American Chiropractic Association

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