Chiropractic in the Military: Overseas Care in Okinawa

Official chiropractic care for U.S. servicemembers finally came to the Pacific in 2010.

Dr. Reggie Clifton, based at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa, is one of three civilian chiropractors at overseas military medical facilities, according to the Department of Defense.  The other two are at the Baumholder and Vilseck U.S. Army health clinics in Germany.  The Defense Department also is recruiting a chiropractor for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Chiropractic care in the military has been a long time coming.  Although President Bill Clinton signed into law the Permanent Chiropractic Benefit for Military Act in October 2000, the military has been slow to implement it, according to a 2005 Government Accountability Office report.

Ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Bob Filner has again introduced the Chiropractic Care to All Veterans Act (H.R. 329), a bill similar to legislation that was overwhelmingly passed by the entire House in 2010 but was not considered in the Senate. H.R. 329 would require the VA to have a chiropractic physician on staff at all major VA medical facilities by 2014.  In addition, Rep. Mike Rogers has re-introduced another piece of legislation in the House that would extend chiropractic care to U.S. military retirees, dependents and survivors as part of the TRICARE program.

TRICARE, the health program for military personnel and retirees, evaluated patients’ response to chiropractic care. The enormously high patient satisfaction rates astounded the TRICARE administrators, with scores that ranged from 94.3 percent in the Army. The Air Force tally was also high, with 12 of 19 bases scoring 100 percent; and the Navy also reported ratings in the 90 percent or higher. Even the TRICARE outpatient satisfaction surveys (TROSS) rated chiropractors at 88.54, which was 10 percent “higher than the overall satisfaction with all [health care] providers.”

“I can honestly say that I have not had any pushback at all (from other doctors),” Clifton said. “We’re all keeping people fit to fight.”

“It’s a much-needed specialty,” said Navy Cmdr. Bryan Bost, head of the Okinawa hospital’s Department of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Chiropractic Services.

Clifton, once a traveling doctor for drivers and pit crews at auto racing tracks throughout the Midwest, likened providing chiropractic care to servicemembers to working with athletes.  “I believe their workout regimen and their day-to-day work regimen is actually harder than professional athletes’,” he said. “There are few breaks in the military. You don’t have an off-season.”
“And the injuries are the same — the chronic pain and sprains brought on by carrying heavy weights on long marches and runs, not to mention all the stress that comes with being in a combat situation 24/7 year round,” he said. “It changes them biomedically — how they move. Their center of gravity changes.”

American Chiropractic Association President Dr. Rick McMichael sums up chiopractic in the military best when he said  “Our nation’s veterans and active-duty military, along with their family members, have sacrificed so much for our country. They deserve the best health care available, and that includes chiropractic care.”  Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic is humbled to treat the military servicemen and their families in the Augusta GA community, and we are just glad we can do our part in making sure they are getting the best care possible.


This article was contributed by David Allen of Stars and Stripes.

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