Of all patients in need of chiropractic treatment, U.S. military veterans might need it the most.
Simply walking around in heavy combat gear gives rise to all kinds of musculoskeletal injuries, and chronic pain afflicts 44 percent of military personnel who have been deployed for combat, compared to just 26 percent of the general population. Veterans also use prescription painkillers at a much higher rate—15 percent, compared to 4 percent of the general public.
Chiropractic care can be a lifesaver for ailing veterans, treating the root cause of chronic pain by providing a safer, non-drug alternative.. In addition to easing back pain, a chiropractor can help alleviate neck pain, pain from accidents or injuries, muscle spasms, headaches, sciatica, pinched nerves, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and more.
Although federal policy requires veterans to have access to chiropractic care, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hasn’t yet made the services widely available. In fact, although the VA provides chiropractic care at roughly 40 of its major treatment centers throughout the nation, it still has failed to provide chiropractic treatment at 120 of its other major medical facilities. As a result, veterans, like those profiled in this article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, report waiting up to two months to see their VA’s only chiropractor.
Fortunately, students pursuing a doctor of chiropractic degree are in a position to help. With chiropractic care in such high demand among veterans, today’s graduates have plenty of opportunities to fill the treatment gap. For example, a D.C. degree allows you to:
Work in a Department of Defense facility. More than 50 military treatment centers throughout the United States offer chiropractic treatment for active personnel, both pre- and post-deployment. This allows chiropractors to treat injuries and chronic problems early on, increasing the ability to achieve long-term results.
Work in a VA clinic. In a VA medical facility, chiropractors work as a team with medical professionals across multiple disciplines to determine the best possible approach for each patient. Chiropractors working in these clinics are instrumental in implementing efforts to reduce veterans’ dependence on painkillers.
Join the Patriot Project. Graduates who plan on using their chiropractic degree to start a private practice can still help improve veterans’ access to care by getting involved in the Patriot Project, a grassroots effort to make chiropractic treatment readily available for all service members. Participation requires treating at least one armed-service member each week at no charge. Additionally, chiropractors are asked to collect patient testimonials to help secure funding for future initiatives.
Palmer alums are impacting care for veterans every day. Michael Pavalock, D.C. is working to improve access to chiropractic care for veterans as associate chief of staff at the VHA in Washington, D.C.. Alex Schielke is a chiropractic trainee at a VA/DoD facility on the east coast who hopes to have a long career working with veterans.
Of course, students who are passionate about helping military veterans don’t need to wait until they earn their doctor of chiropractic degree. Through our DoD/VA Chiropractic Internship Program, senior-level students have the opportunity to work alongside chiropractic doctors administering chiropractic care to veterans during their clinical training. It’s a valuable opportunity to decide if a job in a VA or military facility is right for you.