From: Dallas News
By: Sarah Mervosh
Kaitlyn 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.
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.”