Robert A. Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
Kevin Spacey plays the part of the president of United States in “House of Cards.” His character is a ruthless, opportunistic, but pleasantly decisive, murderer who plotted his way into the presidency. A Reuters poll yesterday placed that character at 57% popularity if he were the actual president, while Barack Obama flounders at 54% approval. Obama’s retort is that at least he is more popular than Congress.
Congress is certainly a dysfunctional group in a larger, more dysfunctional government. Part of that is by design, as we elect people to resist the efforts of others with whom we disagree. Nevertheless, the First Amendment to the Constitution, that much-maligned, circumvented, and ignored document that made America exceptional, still forbids Congress to abridge our right “to petition Congress for the redress of grievances.”
Each year I go to Congress in my role as the Georgia delegate for the American Chiropractic Association with my list of grievances that need attention. We have focused on veterans’ issues for the past several years. In my last column, I mentioned the plight of a Vietnam veteran who could not get an appointment in the VA surgery clinic. I assure everyone that we will not give up the fight for our veterans.
Next time you see a soldier in full battle dress, check out the equipment. He or she is wearing a heavy Kevlar vest, helmet, belt with equipment, ammunition, and perhaps a canteen. There is a weapon of some sort. They average about 60 pounds of equipment on their backs. The number one problem they have upon return, if they have not been hit by flying lead or an improvised explosive device (IED, a cowardly bomb left hidden on the road), is back and neck pain.
This is the very issue that chiropractic addresses uniquely well. There is no healthcare profession with a higher satisfaction rate among patients with musculoskeletal problems. It makes sense to provide high-quality, drugless, nonsurgical conservative care to the Americans who deserve it most.
In recent years, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has started the long-overdue process of providing veterans with access to chiropractic care by placing doctors of chiropractic on staff at VA hospitals. The process of integrating chiropractic care in the VA system was initiated after Congress enacted a series of statues—Public Laws 108-170 and 107-135—that reinforced a permanent chiropractic benefit within the VA health care system and specifically directed the VA to hire doctors of chiropractic to provide care for veterans.
As a result of the above-referenced congressional directives, the VA now provides chiropractic care (via hired or contracted staff) at about 50 major VA treatment facilities within the United States. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of America’s veterans still do not have access to chiropractic care because the VA has taken no action to provide chiropractic care at more than 100 of its major medical facilities. The only one in our area is in Augusta.
It is a slow process getting the Veterans Administration to embrace change. We will not be deterred, though, so we return to Congress annually to give them progress report about how the VA is or is not complying with the will of Congress.
This year my ACA colleagues and I petition specifically for two bills that are before Congress now. One of these, S. 398, would expand access to chiropractic care to every Veterans Administration facility and codify that as a standard benefit for our veterans who are in pain. The second, HR 802, extends those benefits under Tri-Care so that veterans’ care will not be suddenly discontinued upon discharge.
The fight to protect and care for our veterans is ongoing, and we, the American Chiropractic Association, will not stop until every veteran receives all that we can give them, for they deserve it all and more.
My only concern is Congress itself. This legislative body is being purposefully and illegally circumvented by the Executive branch daily in ways the founding fathers never intended or envisioned. I wonder how long Congress itself will be relevant.