Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in his position as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is pressing for expanded veterans’ access to treatments such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation and animal-assisted therapy for chronic pain.
In an April 30 hearing on overmedication at the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments, Sanders, a longtime admirer of complementary and alternative medical treatments, said VA must do more to reduce its doctors’ reliance on prescriptions to treat pain.
“For many veterans, chronic pain is a part of their daily life ... options for managing chronic pain are paramount to improving their quality of life,” Sanders said.
According to Pentagon data, about a quarter of active-duty personnel received a prescription for an opiate-based painkiller in 2013.
At VA, about half of patients with chronic pain are prescribed opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.
In the past five years, both VA and DoD have moved to reduce the number of potentially addictive prescriptions. A DoD task force in 2010 released a comprehensive pain management plan for physicians, and the Pentagon has cut the percentage of active-duty troops receiving opiates from 26 percent in 2011 to 24 percent last year.