With the recent passage of the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), report language accompanying the legislation included vital support for expansion of chiropractic services for civilian members who access the Department of Defense (DoD) health care delivery system known as Tricare.
For many years, the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has been working with members of Congress, especially those in the House and Senate who sit on the Armed Services committees, to create Tricare recipient access to chiropractic services both on and off military bases. ACA has worked with leaders such as Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) both of whom have introduced bipartisan bills to open up access.
Most recently, the latest iteration of the NDAA House report language included the following provision:
Coverage of Chiropractic Care Services under the TRICARE Program
“The committee is aware that since 1985, the Department of Defense has conducted several demonstration projects designed to examine the cost and feasibility of chiropractic healthcare services for its beneficiaries. The results of these projects have concluded that it is feasible to implement chiropractic services as part of the military health care benefit, and the resulting patient satisfaction is higher than that seen with traditional medical care. Moreover, complementary, and alternative medicine is increasingly available in the private sector and chiropractic care is covered by Medicare and some private sector insurers. The committee understands the Department of Defense is currently evaluating chiropractic care services and similar therapies. Therefore, the committee strongly encourages the Department of Defense to expand the TRICARE benefit to include chiropractic care for service members and beneficiaries. ” (1)
While report language does not have the force of law, the mere fact that this provision was included to accompany the massive NDAA law is significant. The Pentagon pays strict attention to these suggestions and often acts to satisfy Congress, which is the branch of government—as per the Constitution—which has oversight on defense-related issues. Also important to note in the report was the acknowledgement that the Pentagon is working to include access to chiropractic services for Tricare recipients, as first reported back in 2019. (2)
During the Chiropractic Demonstration Program at DoD sites, which was conducted prior to enactment of legislation allowing for active-duty members to access chiropractic services on base (3), dependents and retirees were provided with services delivered by doctors of chiropractic on a space-available basis. By all accounts, the response to such access and services was overwhelmingly positive and effective. However, the civilian denial to chiropractic access has resulted in medically retired servicemen and women to lose the chiropractic benefit immediately upon discharge. Many wounded warriors, who depended on the services provided by doctors of chiropractic, suddenly have that treatment option pulled out from under them when they are categorized as “medically retired.”
ACA eagerly awaits plans by the Pentagon to increase access to chiropractic services, and we stand at the ready to work with military health officials to ensure implementation of such expansion includes access to the full range of services allowed under a chiropractor’s state licensure.
John Falardeau is ACA senior vice president of public policy and advocacy.
- National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2022, Report of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives on HR 4350, Report 117-118
- P.L. 106-398, Sec. 702, Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2001