IAVA'S BIG 6
IAVA’s members have identified 6 priority issues that matter most to them.
Cannabis & Other Alternative Therapies
IAVA believes that veterans should have the same access to care as their civilian counterparts.
Veterans have passionately stated that medical cannabis has helped them tackle some of the most pressing war injuries veterans face, such as PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. As cannabis quickly becomes more culturally acceptable, IAVA believes that the VA should be allowed to study cannabis as an alternative therapy to determine its efficacy for the unique needs of veteran health care.
Other Alternative Therapies
Cannabis is not the only therapy that could be proven effective to treat unique veteran health issues, especially the invisible wounds of war. Some other alternative therapies already widely available to civilians are:
Other Alternative Therapies 101
Up to Speed: Other Alternative Therapies
Why are alternative therapies important?
For years, IAVA members have sounded off in support of researching medical cannabis for use in treating the wounds of war. As well, during this time a variety of alternative therapies have been developed for the same purposes.
Veterans have consistently and passionately communicated that they’ve found that other alternative therapies, such as equine therapy and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, offer effective help in tackling some of the most pressing injuries faced when returning from war. Frequently, alternative therapies take the place of addictive prescription drugs. Yet, many of these alternative modalities are not currently being incorporated into VA care.
IAVA insists that, where there are proven alternative therapies available to their civilian counterparts, veterans should have access to the same standard of care through the VA.
What are service dogs and therapy dogs?
A service dog is a dog trained to help people with disabilities, such as visual impairments, mental illnesses, seizure disorders, diabetes, etc. while a therapy dog is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospice, disaster areas, retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and more.
Service dogs and service animals in general are working animals, not pets. They have been specifically trained to perform tasks related to the disabled person’s specific disabilities. For example, a service animal for someone with epilepsy can be trained to alert them when a seizure is imminent so that appropriate measures may be taken to either avert the seizure or reduce the risk of injury.
Therapy dogs are used in facilities to comfort people and give affection. Spending time with a therapy dog has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety, and increase endorphins and oxytocin. Therapy dogs do not have to be trained to perform specific tasks like service dogs.
Also in this category are emotional support animals (ESA) which provide their owners with therapeutic benefits through companionship.
What is equine therapy?
Equine-assisted psychotherapy incorporates horses into the therapeutic process. Those participating in this type of therapy may engage in activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading a horse while being supervised by a mental health professional. Depending on the therapeutic need, participants could develop skills such as emotional regulation, self-confidence, or responsibility. Equine-assisted therapy is growing in popularity due to mounting evidence of its effectiveness.
A variety of terms may be used to describe or reference equine-assisted psychotherapy, including:
The last term, equine-assisted therapy, can also often refer to other forms of therapy where horses are used, such as with occupational therapy.
What is Agri Therapy?
Agri Therapy for veterans is participation in agriculture programs designed to encourage therapeutic relief of service-related disabilities such as PTSD, TBI, and much more. These programs may be in the form of farming, ranching, gardening, beekeeping or any other agricultural pursuit coupled with oversight by a mental health professional.
MDMA-assisted psychotherapy is the use of prescribed doses of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy sessions. Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), is a psychoactive drug that has been studied as an enhancer for psychotherapy because of its empathy-producing effects and its ability to reduce inhibitions in a therapeutic session.
Such studies have been constrained since 1985 though, when the drug was classified in the United States as a Schedule I controlled substance. In spite of this, researchers are investigating whether MDMA may assist in treating severe, treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Initial findings have provided promising evidence that MDMA can indeed help address trauma-related disease, in particular PTSD.
How can I help?
How is IAVA fighting?
IAVA is working hard with other groups and leaders to ensure that those who fought for our country are treated with the same quality of health care that is available to their civilian counterparts. Learn about our current proposed legislation below and take action.
Become a Veteran Advocate
We fight and win for veterans every day, but we can’t do it without you. Commit to supporting veterans and we’ll keep you updated about our important work and let you know how you can help.
Are you frustrated with the treatment options available at the VA?
You are not alone! There are alternatives.
IAVA's Big 6
Select a topic from the list below to learn about IAVA’s advocacy priorities.