Breaking Barriers


The following Op-Ed article appeared in the Macon Telegraph on May 26, 2013.

Breaking Chiropractic Barriers at RAFB

The struggle of Jackie Robinson, the great Brooklyn Dodger who broke the “color barrier” in MLB in 1947 and became the subject of a recent movie, “42”, reminds me of the struggle facing chiropractors today at RAFB and local hospitals. Indeed, just like Jackie, being a chiropractor in middle Georgia requires a thick skin, a strong backbone, and a resolute purpose.

When Jackie Robinson opened the door of apartheid in sports, he showed sport fans that equality and fairness produced better results than racism and segregation, and all American sports have followed in step. Even the great Alabama coach Bear Bryant was a pioneer in integrating SEC football.

Obviously integrating sports has been more important to some than integrating healthcare despite the federal laws that require doing so. Just as black baseball players were segregated to the Negro Leagues until Robinson integrated MLB, chiropractors are still segregated in TRICARE at RAFB, at the DVA, in local hospitals as well as workers compensation programs.

Eventually Robinson’s athletic excellence could not be denied by the most racist baseball fans, so too has chiropractic care been rated a “proven treatment” for back pain despite the century-long defamation by some intolerant MDs who still carry the cross of prejudice.

Also proven ineffective by researchers has been the use of expensive medical spine care treatments consisting of narcotic painkillers, epidural shots, and spine fusions that have become “the poster child of inefficient care” according to a leading spine research journal.

This problem of inappropriate spine care at RAFB has only gotten worse, not better, since the 2005 BRAC finding that Robins led all the ALCs in high workers compensation costs presumably from the inordinate amount of back surgeries.

Retired Gen. Robert McMahon, the present leader of the 21st Century Partnership, revealed labor-management problems that may jeopardize RAFB at the next BRAC, but he failed to recall the status of RAFB was already in jeopardy according to the 2005 BRAC analysis.

The irony is this threat can easily be solved by implementing chiropractic care that has been proven to be more clinically and cost-effective than medical spine care in the majority of back-related injuries, now deemed the #1 disabling on-the-job condition in the nation.

The trend to implement chiropractic care is not a new issue in the military services and DVA considering the federal laws for the inclusion of chiropractic care were signed by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2006 Department of Defense authorization bill, Congress included language to require the U.S. Air Force to complete implementation of chiropractic services at 11 sites including RAFB that had not yet opened in accordance with a five-year-old Pentagon plan to make chiropractic care available to active-duty members of the military.

Seven years later RAFB still stonewalls chiropractic care despite a stunning March 18, 2013 memo in support of chiropractic care from the DoD itself.

Recently Jonathon Woodson, MD, from the office of The Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs, issued a memorandum to the Assistant Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force that spoke of the popularity and proposed expansion of the military chiropractic program:

“Chiropractic services may now be added at Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) that do not offer the service, subject to Military Department approval procedures and available funding.

This change recognizes several requests from MTFs to add chiropractic services and the incorporation of chiropractic care in various pain management programs.”

I find it extremely odd that this memo encourages every branch of the military to expand chiropractic care while RAFB remains mired in its segregated past to ignore it.

Perhaps a statement by the head of the 78th Medical Group at RAFB would be appropriate to explain why this boycott continues today.

I have filed two FOIA requests inquiring about the facts about spine care treatments and costs at RAFB without any response. Apparently RAFB has something to hide about this serious issue.

I urge RAFB to implement a chiropractic program as Dr. Woodson suggests and I urge the Warner Robins 21st Century Partnership to show BRAC that RAFB is capable of solving this danger to its status by implementing chiropractic care just as Jackie Robinson showed MLB that integration works better than segregation.


JC Smith, MA, DC

Warner Robins