Washington, DC – Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, today introduced a bill that would improve access and research at VA for evidence-based complementary and integrative medicine – services that may include animal-assisted therapy, acupuncture, and hypnosis – aimed at helping our nation’s veterans reduce dependence on opioids and better treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and other conditions.

“The men and women who have served our country in uniform deserve every possible effective treatment to address their wounds of war,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “Better evaluating what works and what doesn’t, and expanding access to innovative treatments that work is critical to upholding the promise we’ve made to our nation’s heroes.”

As many as 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – nearly 20 percent of returning troops – have symptoms associated with PTSD or depression, and 60 percent of veterans returning from the Middle East and 50 percent of older veterans are managing chronic pain. Complementary and integrative medicine has helped many veterans manage these and other wounds of war and reduce dependence on opioids for management of chronic pain. In 2017, a VA study concluded that yoga improved health outcomes among veterans with chronic low back pain by improving pain intensity scores and reducing opioid use. Another VA study found that participation in a mantram repetition program significantly reduced insomnia among veterans with PTSD. However, many of these services have not been widely studied or offered at VA.

VA currently makes a range of complementary and integrative medicine approaches available at VA facilities or in the community, including acupuncture, animal-assisted therapy, hypnosis, meditation, music therapy, and yoga. Brownley’s bill – the Expanding Care for Veterans Act – would require VA to substantially expand research and education on the effectiveness of these services, codify its authority to offer them, study barriers to accessing such care, and establish a program assessing the role wellness programs can play in mental health care. She has introduced similar legislation in previous years.

Brownley has long been an advocate for complementary treatment. Her legislation to expand chiropractic care at the VA was signed into law on March 23, 2018 as part of the FY 2018 government funding bill.

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