VA Cites Drop in Opiate Prescriptions, but Some Lawmakers Skeptical of Progress


Minyard said he was finally able to get off pain medication after trying spinal cord stimulation, but when he asked the VA about obtaining a spinal stimulator two years ago, he was told he would have to fail with opiate treatment first.

Related: VA's lack of pain treatment options led to opiate addiction, vet says.

"My response is, 'What is your definition of failure? Is it addiction or is it death? Accidental overdose?'" he asked. "When I accidentally overdose, does this mean I'll be able to access treatment?"

Veterans around the country raised questions about how available the alternative therapies promised by the VA would be.

In Texas, U.S. Army veteran Chas Jacquier, who sustained multiple concussions during bomb blasts in Afghanistan and has a bulging disk in his back, told CIR he had to wait three months to see a neurologist.

When he finally saw the specialist on Tuesday, he said the doctor talked to him about future acupuncture or chiropractic care -- but nothing was scheduled and any future appointments appeared to be weeks, or months, away.

"I would like some alternative therapy," Jacquier said, "but all I get is meds."

Still, Minyard said the change in VA policy could give more veterans access to alternative therapy and reduce their dependence on painkillers.

"Thank God. Now how do we fix it?" he asked. "Let's start fixing. We can start this afternoon. It's not too little, too late. Absolutely not."

This story was reported by The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and ABC News. ABC News senior producer Teri Whitcraft contributed to this report. Reach and follow him on Twitter at @Aaron_Glantz.

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