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HOGG: Meeting the special needs of America’s warriors

Congress must cut therapy red tape so the suffering won’t have to

- - Thursday, July 4, 2013

For the independence of this great nation, many lives have been given freely, and many families have sacrificed greatly. Therefore, it truly is only fitting that the United States should do everything it can to take care of our wounded warriors and their families.

Military families have health insurance coverage under TriCare, a government-run system that generally provides needed care and coverage to our heroes and their families, but it certainly isn't without limitation or headaches, as many in the military would say.

This is one of those times when TriCare, and our government and elected officials, have failed. Kaitlyn Samuels lives with her family in Keller, Texas. Her dad is a Navy captain, and her mom stays home with her and her two siblings. Kaitlyn needs constant care as she has several special needs, including severe scoliosis, which, if her spine curves too much, could collapse her organs and suffocate her. For this need, Kaitlyn has been doing therapy with horses, and it has worked wonders for her, and many other disabled children and wounded warriors in similar situations.

It is mandated by law that TriCare cover this physical therapy, which is actually cheaper than therapy on a ball or bench, but its officials decided not to follow the law and stop covering the therapy. They told Kaitlyn's family to pay back a year's worth of therapy in one lump sum.

After two years of court battles, the Samuels won their case, and the judge ordered TriCare to cover the therapy. The Department of Defense sent a letter to Kaitlyn's family and said they will not follow the judge's order and suggested the family go to Congress to fix the problem.

Military families' parents do not have the time, energy or funds to pursue this kind of red-tape-cutting expedition. Not only did the Samuels persist in their cause, but they started Kaitlyn's Foundation to help special-needs children and military vets who needed similar physical therapy and the means to pay for it.

Since the family had to recourse to Congress, it was almost inevitable that politics would play a vital role in getting the care needed for Kaitlyn. Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Republican, who represents Kaitlyn's district, introduced Kaitlyn's Law, H.R. 1705, which would clarify the existing law so the government has to cover physical therapy for special-needs children and veterans, no matter the tool that is used, be it a horse, ball or bench.

Now the bill is in the hands of our elected officials. The bill adds no expense to taxpayers, and this small clarification in the law would mean the world to families with special needs and wounded warriors who depend on this particular type of therapy. Is it so much to ask that Congress pass Kaitlyn's Law? Our military families, their children and our veterans, who have given up so much in defense of our freedom, deserve no less than the best this country has to offer.

Mike Hogg, a former chaplain to the Navy SEALs, is executive director of the Rocky Top Therapy Center and board member of Kaitlyn's Foundation.