The story of Kaitlyn N. Samuels is an infuriating one. It blends together the senselessness of our military bureaucracy with the powerlessness of individual veterans and their families. It mocks the professed patriotism of our politicians, who pledge endlessly that they will do all they can to make life easier for our military families. It favors insurance policy at the expense of medicine. It's an instance where the Obama Administration turned a smart solution into a problem. And it is a case where the Pentagon has said no to a severely disabled teenage girl.
When Kaitlyn Samuels was 4 months old, her parents, Mark and Jennifer, worried that she couldn't reach for her toys. Doctors initially assured them that it was probably normal, but after two months brought little improvement they ordered a battery of neurological tests that revealed Kaitlyn had a very rare and very serious brain malfunction.
The years since then have been a struggle, as Kaitlyn has suffered the effects of epilepsy, cerebral palsy and all sorts of related complications. She can't speak or walk by herself. Her food has to be blended into liquid form because she can't chew. Her brain is frozen in perpetual toddlerhood.
Kaitlyn also suffers from severe scoliosis. Left unchecked, the condition would get progressively worse, with the increasing curvature of the spine diminishing lung capacity, popping joints out of socket and eventually killing her by crushing her internal organs. It can be treated with physical therapy, but traditional methods didn't work for Kaitlyn; she would grow bored and shut down, rendering the session worthless.
By 2009, the family and its doctors had come up with an excellent solution. Twice a week, for 30 minutes at a time, Kaitlyn would ride atop a horse, around and around in a circle, in an exercise that stretched her muscles, worked her back and legs, and kept her focused on sitting upright. To the family, the sound exercise is a creative and successful form of physical therapy. To the government, the exercise is called "hippotherapy"-- a controversial designation that has allowed the feds to malign its usefulness.