Kaitlyn Samuels, the Disabled Girl Whose Therapy Was Denied by the Military's Insurer, Has Found Help in an Unlikely Place: Congress

We've written about Kaitlyn Samuels twice: Once last February when her parents went before a military judge to argue that Tricare, the Department of Defense's health insurer, should cover therapy costs for their severely disabled daughter, and again in October after Tricare ignored the judge's order to do so.

Kaitlyn suffers from scoliosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and a host of other ailments that have left her without the ability to chew, speak or walk. Her brain is comparable to that of a toddler, meaning she doesn't do well in traditional physical therapy. She became much more engaged, and the therapy became markedly more effective, when she began going to Rocky Top Therapy Services, where her physical therapist would go through their routine.

After paying for several sessions, Tricare declared the sessions unproven "hippotherapy" and refused to pay. To the Samuels family, their physical therapist, the military judge and rational observers, it's clear that Kaitlyn is engaging in completely legitimate physical therapy sessions that just happens to take place on top of a horse. But like we said, Tricare plugged its ears.

Others have not. Since November, The Atlantic reports, the family has received financial support from horse racing mogul Jeff Gural and legal help from Marcella Burke with Akin Gump. Most importantly, they've managed to get the ear of Congress.

Jennifer Samuels sent word last week that U.S. Representatives Michael Burgess of Lewisville and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have introduced H.R. 1705, formally titled the "Rehabilitative Therapy Parity for Military Beneficiaries Act" but dubbed "Kaitlyn's Law." The bill simply expands the definition of "rehabilitative therapy" to include exercise or activities that take place on horses, balance boards, balls, or benches.

"Family members of our military service members, like Kaitlyn, deserve the opportunity to receive equal access to physical therapy services that enables them to maintain physical functioning and allow them to live a full and happy life," Burgess said in a statement quoted by The Atlantic. "In the past, certain physical therapy services have been denied to TRICARE beneficiaries ... Our bill simply corrects this inequity and ensures TRICARE beneficiaries receive the services they are entitled to."

Here's hoping the rest of Congress agrees.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson