Legislation was recently introduced in the Senate that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand access to acupuncture services for veterans.
The Acupuncture for our Heroes Act (S. 2914) was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). It would establish a program to expand acupuncturist services to veterans enrolled in the VA health care system.
Additionally, the bill would:
- Direct the VA Secretary to carry out the program in at least one facility of the VA in each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN), of which there are 23;
- If the VISN includes a state without a full-service VA medical facility, then the VA Secretary is directed to carry out the program in that state.
- Ensure veterans could seek acupuncture services from licensed acupuncturists to treat a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, cancer pain, joint pain, stress management, mental health conditions, substance abuse and symptoms relating to traumatic brain injury and PTSD;
- Require the VA to provide materials to healthcare providers that explain the benefits of acupuncture services and establishes an Acupuncture Advisory Committee at the VA; and
- Instruct the committee to review and evaluate the ability of veterans to access acupuncturists at VA facilities.
Shaheen says the bill is necessary because acupuncture is one of the most requested services from veterans. She cited a report from the VHA which said that 80% of VA providers identified it as one of the top three services most requested from veterans.
“We need to make sure alternatives to opioids are being made available when it comes to pain treatment, particularly for our veterans, many of whom suffer from chronic pain because of their service,” said Shaheen. “Acupuncture has proven to be an effective pain treatment for many patients and is in high demand by veterans. However, access to acupuncture through the VA remains limited in many areas of the country, including in New Hampshire. This bill would make sure veterans have increased access to this treatment option, and avoid the risks associated with opioid painkillers. This is a common sense proposal that improves the health care options available to our heroes who put everything on the line to defend our country.”
What do you think? Should the VA be in the business of providing acupuncture services? Feel free to weigh in in the comments below.