Horse Therapy Legislation Introduced in the House

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 6, 2013) -- On April 24, 2013, Representatives Michael Burgess (R-CA) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced The Rehabilitative Therapy Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act of 2013 (H.R. 1705). This legislation would amend federal law to provide that military families and wounded veterans are entitled to be reimbursed for therapies, including "therapies provided on a horse" that are medically authorized.

Military personnel and members of their family who suffer from debilitating diseases have sought treatment through therapeutic horse riding programs or hippotherapy.  Unfortunately, TRICARE, the health care program serving uniformed services members, retirees, and their families, will not cover therapeutic riding because it considers such equine therapy experimental and unproven and therefore not reimbursable, despite many advances in the health of people who have used it versus other treatments that have little or no affect on them.

This issue has been highlighted by the plight of Kaitlyn Samuels, a member of a military family, who suffers from cerebral palsy, scoliosis, autism and epilepsy.  The Samuels tried therapeutic riding as a last effort to ease Kaitlyn's pain. The therapeutic riding helped her more than any of the other standard treatments. When the Samuels family sought reimbursement for this professional therapy through TRICARE, the request was ultimately denied.  The family ended up going to court, won their case, but the program still would not reimburse the family for the cost of treatment.

This bill has been referred to the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Military Personnel.  It currently has four co-sponsors, Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Marc Veasey (D-TX).

The American Horse Council supports this bill.