In the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Andy Barr's (R-KY) amendment to the IMPROVE Act was adopted on a bipartisan basis with a vote of 26-0. Rep. Barr's amendment added equine assisted therapy, adaptive sports, and innovative approaches to the list of services which community organizations can receive grant funding to provide to veterans.
The IMPROVE Act (H.R. 3495) was introduced by Rep. Jack Bergman (MI-1) and works to increase the access of services aimed at preventing veteran suicide by providing grants to community organizations that offer and coordinate suicide prevention services for veterans and their families. During his time on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Barr has championed EAT in multiple pieces of legislation.
“In a time when so many veterans are so hesitant to take another prescription or fear getting addicted to opioids, equine assisted therapy gets veterans outside and allows them the amazing opportunity to work with horses to process their experiences,” said Congressman Barr. “As the Chairman of the Congressional Horse Caucus and someone who cares very deeply for our veterans, I believe increasing grant funding opportunities for evidence-based equine-assisted therapy and innovative therapies will greatly diversify the treatment options available to our veterans.”
The Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (Eagala), a national equine assisted therapy organization said, “Eagala is supportive of the Barr amendment including adaptive sports, equine assisted therapy, as well as non-traditional and innovative approaches and treatment practices as VA-determined covered services in the IMPROVE Act ANS being marked up by the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs. It is critical that alternate therapies, like equine assisted therapy, be supported in this bill. Thousands of veterans across the country already use equine assisted therapy in their road to recovery. Be it mental health, post-traumatic stress, or physical impairments, therapies incorporating horses allows the veteran to recover in an interactive environment that suits their needs. Eagala commends Representative Barr for ensuring that equine assisted therapy is a covered service to help combat veteran suicide in the IMPROVE Act.”
In addition to equine assisted therapy, Congressman Barr's amendment would champion innovative therapies and help groups like Camp Brown Bear Veterans Camp in Franklin County that offers camps and retreats for veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury.
“Camp Brown Bear Veterans Camp is pleased to support Congressman Barr's amendment to add adaptive sports and innovative therapies to the IMPROVE Act. This addition provides veterans with a variety of treatment options allowing their emotional and physical recovery.” said Steve Brown of Camp Brown Bear Veterans Camp. “The camp is a veteran owned non-profit providing traditional and non-traditional methods of therapy to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. By introducing this amendment, Congressman Barr continues to be a champion for veterans who would benefit from alternative therapy methods.”
“While I am glad my amendment was adopted, the Majority's amended version of the bill prohibits community organizations from using VA grant funding to offer critical clinical services to suicidal veterans in their time of need—preventing me from being able to support the underlying bill, which passed the Committee with zero Republican votes,” said Congressman Barr. “Should H.R. 3495 pass the full House of Representatives, I look forward to advocating for my amendment with the Senate to produce a bipartisan bill that properly supports and serves our veterans in need.
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