Keller family sues government for coverage of girl’s horse therapy

Equine therapy

From: Dallas News
By: Sarah Mervosh

Equine therapyKaitlyn Samuels of Keller, whose dad is a retired Navy captain, responds better to physical therapy on a horse than on a static surface, her family says. Her case could set a precedent for other military families seeking equine therapy.

A young Keller woman and her parents sued the U.S. Department of Defense this month, seeking to require the department’s insurance company to cover her equine therapy retroactively and in the future. The military’s health agency and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are listed as co-defendants.

The suit represents the latest and most forceful effort in the battle by 17-year-old Kaitlyn Samuels and her parents, Mark and Jennifer Samuels, for insurance coverage.


Mark and Jennifer Samuels say that physical therapy on a horse provides lifesaving benefits to their daughter, who has mental and physical disabilities.

Kaitlyn was born with a brain abnormality and has the mental capacity of a toddler. She suffers from severe scoliosis, which could kill her if left untreated, according to court filings. Her family says she responds better to physical therapy on a horse than on a static surface, such as a ball.

Mark Samuels is a retired Navy captain, making the family eligible for military medical benefits.

But Tricare, the Defense Department’s health care provider, denied coverage, saying that “hippotherapy,” or equine therapy, is not a proven treatment.

An administrative judge for the department recommended that Tricare cover Kaitlin’s physical therapy, but Tricare did not change its position.

What’s next

A federal judge or jury could rule, or the suit may be settled out of court. No trial date has been set.

Whatever happens, the case could set a precedent for other military families seeking equine therapy.

“We’re hopeful that the decision will have some precedential value for people who are also needing coverage for their children or themselves, who may be suffering and this is their only way of receiving physical therapy,” said the family’s attorney, Michelle Reed. “If it needs to go to trial, we’ll try it. We’re not afraid to take it all the way so we can help this girl and her family.”

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AUTHOR: Amber Barnes
  • arlene

    SUE the Pants off them !!!!!!

    August 29, 2014
  • mustang man

    Insurance has never been intended to pay everything and they were perfectly aware from the beginning that their policy doesn’t cover equine assisted therapy. If they didn’t know then they should have picked up the phone and found out. Most insurance policies only cover a limited amount of Chiropractic or P.T. as well. Read, know what you are buying and then suck it up and pay for what isn’t covered. Just another frivolous lawsuit that will raise my health insurance rates.

    August 29, 2014
  • Shirley Mix

    That is horse lucky. I know it can help.
    I had a stroke and nothing has help me as much as riding my horse..

    August 29, 2014
  • Maggie Frazier

    As with anything different from traditional medicine – it always seems to require persistence to cause a change! Insurance companies are so very slow to accept much of anything new – look how long acupuncture has been around & still many insurances don’t cover it! I hope there is enough support & feedback that it helps this family & others to get the help they need. Horses are such wonderful creatures – that alone makes lives better.

    August 29, 2014
  • Margo Nielsen

    Mustang Man… Their insurance provider is Tricare, provided by the VA for veterans and their families. They have no choice in providers and it has nothing to do with your commercial insurance costs.
    There are many therapeutic programs using horses for physical, psychological and physical help, requiring certification. It is time that these program providers documented the progress of their client/patients and start lobbying legislators to require insurance companies to accept Hippotherapy as a legitimate and beneficial form of treatment. In the long run, in addition to expanding the abilities and healing of the patients, costs will be reduced for the overall treatment.

    August 30, 2014
  • Robynne Catheron

    Mustang Man, in order to receive Tricare medical benefits for ourselves and our dependents, we have to have served our country honorably until we retire from the military. We paid dearly during active duty to earn our retiree benefits, and pay our premiums every month for life just like you do. Our medical care won’t hurt you, I promise. It’s paid for by the Department of Defense.
    We knew exactly “what we were buying,” as you put it, when we took the oath to protect the United States of America (including you) from its enemies, both foreign and domestic. And believe me, most of us did “suck it up” as you put it. As far as “another frivolous lawsuit,” I am positive Captain Samuels followed the letter of the military law down to the nth degree when applying for alternative therapies for his daughter, filled out reams of requisite paperwork, and chased bureaucratic red tape to every single office in his chain of command until his military legal office advised him to take the matter to court.

    Mustang Man, being in the military is no walk in the park; it’s damned hard work. To live that life for 20 years isn’t easy. Raising a family in the military isn’t easy, either. Raising a child with special needs while serving in the military is unbelievable. That family has every right to file whatever lawsuit their legal advisor deems necessary to get their child whatever care will help her.

    By the way, I’m sure you don’t know this because you obviously don’t know anything else about the military, that family will not receive any monetary compensation. If the judge rules in their favor, they will only receive the alternative therapy they are requesting. So you can rest easy, your money won’t be affected in the least.

    One more thing, Mustang Man: you should be ashamed of yourself.

    August 30, 2014