By Dr. Christopher Kent

Chiropractors throughout the world were pleased by the passage of Public Law 107-135, requiring the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs to “carry out a program to provide chiropractic care and services to veterans through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs medical centers and clinics.” The law provides that the program shall include, “a variety of chiropractic care and services for neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, including subluxation complex.”

While various political factions of the profession sought to take credit for the passage of the law and its contents, none acknowledged the efforts of Leo L. Spears, D.C., who began fighting for chiropractic inclusion in veteran’s health programs back in the 1920s. The story is told in a biography of this remarkable man authored by William S. Rehm, D.C. [1] The information reviewed in this column is from Dr. Rehm’s work.


Leo L. Spears served in the Marine Corps from 1917-1919. After being honorably discharged, he attended the Palmer School of Chiropractic, graduating in 1921. Interestingly, veteran’s benefits enabled him to complete his chiropractic education. It would not be long before he was confronted with the fact that while veteran’s benefits were available to pursue training as chiropractor, there was no provision for providing chiropractic services to veterans.

On September 10, 1921, Dr. Spears published an open letter to President Harding and Congress in the Rocky Mountain News urging that the Veteran’s Bureau be required to provide chiropractic care for disabled veterans. Despite support from veteran’s organizations, it was not until 1952 that Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers drafted H.R. 54, which mandated chiropractic benefits for veterans.

Senator William Langer of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, convened hearings held May 14-16 and June 19, 1953. In the hearings, Dr. Orin E Madison, of Wayne State University, a chemistry professor and chairman of the Michigan Basic Science Board testified that, “the press and the medics had combined to block veterans from receiving government-paid chiropractic treatments.” [2]

No stranger to the world of alternative health, the press noted Senator Langer’s interest in the Hoxsey cancer treatment, and Sister Kenney’s methods for the rehabilitation of polio patients. One journalist noted that, “Without Langer’s support, Sister Kenney would have sunk without a trace, and polio victims now normal, healthy citizens, would either be in their graves or hopeless cripples.” [3]

The Langer hearings on “Medical Monopoly in the Military” resulted in 550 pages of testimony, and, regrettably, little else. Dr. Spears died in 1956, and Senator Langer died in 1959.

It would not be until nearly 50 years after the Langer hearings that an Advisory Committee would meet to make recommendations to the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs on the implementation of Public Law 107-135.

It remains to be seen how Dr. Spears’ vision to bring chiropractic care to our veterans will be realized. We must acknowledge the passion and commitment of this pioneer in spearheading the process over eighty years ago.


1. Rehm WS: “Prairie Thunder. Dr. Leo L. Spears and his Hospital.” Davenport, IA. Association for the History of Chiropractic, Inc. 2001.

2. “Langer charges press, medics conspire against chiropractic.” Denver Post, 8/26/53. Quoted in Rehm, 1.

3. “Jury asks healing ad curb.” Denver Post, 5/14/54. Quoted in Rehm, 1.

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