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Government Accountability Office Reviews Chiropractic Availability for US Service Members

On September 6, 2005 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a letter reporting on the US Department of Defense (DoD) implementation of chiropractic benefits to active duty military personnel. In 2001 Congress passed the National Defense Reauthorization Act requiring the US Department of Defense to create and implement a plan to make the chiropractic benefit available to all active duty service members in the U.S. military.

According to the GAO report they examined relevant legislation, statutes, and reports containing congressional directives to DOD for establishing and enhancing the chiropractic benefit as well as those directing earlier chiropractic demonstration projects. The report showed that the Department of Defense has initiated implementation, but has no plans at present of making Chiropractic care available as a benefit to "all active duty service members" as required by the law.

The report did show that of the 238 military treatment facilities throughout the world, the DoD has opened only 42 chiropractic clinics. The report also noted that of the 1.8 million active-duty service members, only 54 percent, or 969,000, live in the areas served by these military treatment facilities that now have chiropractic clinics.

Over the past several years, the demand for chiropractic care in the military has been growing. Previous to this program, service personnel seeking chiropractic care would be forced to pay for the service themselves. According to the report the Chiropractic facilities have been established in military treatment facilities in areas in the U.S. with large active-duty populations. The majority of the chiropractic clinics are in the Army, which has 17. The Air Force also houses 14 while the Navy maintains 11.

Although making chiropractic care available to active duty military is a good start, the report did note that a sizeable portion of the active military would not have chiropractic readily available. Nineteen percent of active-duty service members reside in remote or overseas areas where no chiropractic will be available. However, an additional 28 percent of active-duty personnel live in areas of the U.S. served by military treatment facilities that do not have chiropractic clinics. In response the DoD stated in a letter that military personnel residing in remote and overseas locations or in locations that are not near a military treatment facility with a chiropractic clinic can travel, if necessary, to receive the benefit,