Message from the AAMA Board

Acupuncture for Veterans – A Challenge Worthy of the Battle

— Candace B Warner MD, FAAMA, AAMA Board of Directors

Working with VA patients is incredibly rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Veterans really need medical acupuncturists who can marry Eastern and Western medicine. Since 2018, the administration of the VA Community Care Network (VACCN) — which was created to provide veterans with rapid and diverse medical care and to reduce appointment waiting times — has been split into two regions. TriWest manages the West and Optum the East. I have collaborated with both companies and their policies and procedures are evolving constantly.

To work for the VA, the first step is credentialling. I originally joined the TriWest network with no difficulties. Louisiana was moved to the Eastern region, and to Optum, in 2018. Optum readily contracts with LAcs but not MDs. Physicians must request credentialing through the UHC network instead. UHC is the medical arm and Optum represents the physical health arm. Optum questioned the validity of post graduate physician training programs for MDs versus the various Oriental colleges. I had to push through upper administration and the UHC provider network to even begin the process. There are still significant differences in policies and payments between the two administrators.

The fee schedule for the VA initially was full pay, but that changed in October of 2020 when they adopted the Medicare fee schedule. As a reminder, Medicare only covers SIMPLE low back pain. Ten to 20 visits are covered in one calendar year. A KX modifier is required halfway through. Moreover, since Medicare counts one visit as any use of procedure code 97813 or 97814, most visits consume “two treatments” unless one only charges for 15 minutes. Anyone with previous surgery, a radiculopathy or other pain areas (like neck pain or migraine headaches) is not covered.

The VA does cover ALL pain problems, but it still uses the chronic low back pain fee schedule. These complex patients require more time and effort than what is allowed. The VA does cover a set number of visits, usually 12 over 60 days or eight over three to six months. Ninety-five percent of my VA patients have complex histories, failed surgeries, other injuries, and PTSD. The acupuncture procedure codes inherently include six minutes for evaluation, which is hardly enough time. An office visit is only applicable for 25 percent of their visits. Treating doctors assume all liability and are self-insured.

Code 97813 bills out at $44.52 and 97814 bills out at $73.68 for the maximum billable two units. If additional units are charged, the claim is denied outright. Other modalities, like cupping, are covered for $11.51 a visit. Neither laser therapy nor massage are covered. I still use all the modalities available, and time required to treat my veterans.

Disability in the military is based on other veterans, not the general population. Benefits are assigned after service ends. Many veterans struggle to get what they need. VA doctors do not prescribe pain medication as they did in the past. Many veterans have been medicated for years and are quite desperate for pain relief. As medical acupuncturists, we can provide that relief and have influence in their lives. The VACCN is always being threatened with budget cuts because of the VA labor unions. We cannot allow the bureaucrats to deny adequate acupuncture therapy to these patients. It is important that our Academy supports this valuable program.


Upcoming Professional Development & Educational Opportunities

HMI: Medical Acupuncture in Specialty Practice – Guidance for Generalists
Virtual Courses During October & November

AAMA Annual Symposium
April 13-16, 2023
Dallas, TX Metro Area
Save the date!

SAR 2023 Conference
From Mechanism to Patient-Centered Care: Research in Acupuncture and Traditional East Asian Medicine
May 18-21, 2023
New York City, NY, USA

AAMA Website: Education Listings
The AAMA maintains an ongoing calendar of educational events and professional development opportunities related to medical acupuncture. The calendar is accessible on the AAMA website. Members are encouraged to share events and calendar items from their regions and about educational topics that may be of wider interest among peers and fellow AAMA members.

AAMA News & Announcements

Welcome Our New & Returning AAMA Members

Please join us in welcoming the following new members who became part of the Academy in September 2022.

  • Jennifer E. Allen, NP, of Los Angeles, CA
  • Suzanne M. Edmunds, MD, of Winston Salem, NC
  • Jane M. Forbes, MD, of Charlottesville, VA
  • Kai-Wood Ma, MD, of JB Andrews, MD
  • Jonathan A. Niconchuk, MD, of Nashville, TN
  • Sharon B. Stechna, MD, of Cream Ridge, NJ
  • Deborah L. Thorne, DMSc, PA ,of Las Cruces
  • Mina K. Wasson, MD, of San Diego, CA
  • Kathryn A. Witzeman, MD, of Brighton, CO

And a special welcome back our members who have returned to the AAMA:

  • Sanjiv S. Lakhia, DO, of Rock Hill, SC
  • Charles Wu, MD, PhD, of Syracuse, UT

If you have peers or colleagues who aren’t currently members of the AAMA, please encourage them to learn more about the benefits of membership by visiting the website or contacting Janice Brown, the membership committee chair.

AAMA Legislative Committee Report

The Legislative Committee continues its work monitoring and responding to legislation relevant to our members and their practice of medical acupuncture. Currently, the committee is monitoring 40 bills regarding acupuncture, chronic pain, substance use disorder, and dry needling.

The Legislative Committee will continue to watch for bills that affect AAMA members and respond to the authors and co-sponsors appropriately. The committee members will contact YOU when legislation in your state may affect your ability to practice acupuncture. In that event, you are encouraged to write your representatives and senators since they prefer to hear directly from their constituents. If you learn of relevant legislative activity, please connect with the committee by email:

Physicians Complete 10-Year Re-Certification Process

Congratulations to the following physicians who have completed the process ( set by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA) to be re-certified as a Diplomate for another 10 years:

  • Michael Corcoran, MD, FAAMA, of Towson, MD
  • Tony V. Lu, MD, DABMA, Waianae, HI

Annual Research Paper Competition – 2023 Deadline Announced

The deadline to apply to submit a paper for consideration for the 2023 Research Paper Competition is January 6, 2023.

We are pleased to offer the following financial awards for the winning papers:

  • First Place: $750 stipend, Symposium Registration. Paper to be presented at the 2023 AAMA Symposium.
  • Second Place: $500 stipend, Symposium Registration.
  • Third Place: $350 stipend, Symposium Registration.

If your paper is selected as one of the winners, you will be notified by February 15, 2023. As noted, the First-place winner will have the opportunity to present their paper at the AAMA 2023 Symposium at the Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel in Dallas, TX, April 14-16, 2023. See full submission details.

Apply for Allen McDaniels Research Grant Funding

All members who are engaged in clinical research are encouraged to apply for up to $30,000 in research support through the Allen McDaniels Grant – Medical Acupuncture Research Foundation. The deadline to apply is January 13, 2023. The foundation encourages applicants to submit only pragmatic clinical trial proposals rather than placebo comparison trials. See full details and application.

Call for Clinical Pearls: Adult Nocturnal Enuresis

The editors of the journal Medical Acupuncture are seeking your feedback about how you treat nocturnal enuresis in the adult patient with acupuncture and/or Chinese herbs. Your comments regarding your experience may be published in an upcoming issue of the journal. Please include a sample treatment protocol including such details as lasers used, points/herbs used, needles used, treatment duration, frequency, etc. Learn more. 

Call for Abstracts: SAR 2023

SAR 2023 Conference
From Mechanism to Patient-Centered Care: Research in Acupuncture and Traditional East Asian Medicine

May 18-21, 2023
New York City, NY, USA

The SAR 2023 conference will present a platform wherein researchers from various disciplines can share, explore, and develop novel research hypotheses and strategies for Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM). Serving as a crossroads for basic, translational, and clinical research communities, the SAR 2023 conference will enhance the rigorous investigation of acupuncture and TEAM. By moving from mechanisms to clinical efficacy and optimal implementation, we will rigorously explore how these treatments can be appropriately integrated into health care to improve the health and well-being of people suffering from pain or other chronic medical conditions. Abstracts are solicited for presentations in the areas of clinical research, basic science and research methodology pertaining to acupuncture and other modalities of East Asian medicine including moxibustion, traditional herbs, Tai Chi, Tui Na (massage), Qi Gong and complex life style modification. Abstract submission deadline: January 16, 2023. See details.

ACT FAST! HMI Virtual Course

Helms Medical Institute has announced a new intermediate-level medical acupuncture course, presented fully virtually in two parts:

Part 1) HMI teaching faculty who are board-certified specialists in the areas of neurology, cardiology, gynecology, and pediatrics have prepared video lectures on their use of medical acupuncture in their practices. These lectures will be available for streaming online at your convenience over the month of October. The presentations will be particularly useful for generalists who wish to learn directly from specialists about their clinical strategies.

Part 2) On Saturday, November 5, 2022, a live webinar will be presented featuring the four HMI faculty members and an HMI faculty moderator for additional case presentations and Q&A. This course offers 4.5 ama pra category 1 credits™. Cost: $225.00. Learn more.

New NCCIH Clinical Digest: Complementary Health Approaches for Chronic Pain

The new issue of the digest summarizes current scientific evidence about the complementary health approaches most often used by people for chronic pain, including fibromyalgia, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, low-back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer pain. Acupuncture is featured in many sections. Learn more. 

Acupuncture Treatment for Chronic Tension-Type Headache

In a research summary published on, writer Emily Ridder describes the results of “Acupuncture for Patients With Chronic Tension-Type Headache: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” by Zheng et al. “On average,” she writes, “after completing the acupuncture treatment course, patients in both groups had fewer headache days, did not need rescue medications such as ibuprofen as often, and had reduced pain intensity.” Read more.

Are You Following Us?

Join the conversations online with fellow physician acupuncturists from around the country! You can find AAMA on:

There’s even a closed group on Facebook for discussion between members:

In Case You Missed It Last Month

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Medical Acupuncture

Medical Acupuncture is planning a Special Issue focusing on how acupuncture and related therapies can be used for humanitarian purposes to support people affected by disasters, displacement, environmental devastation, poverty, and human conflict. In humanitarian crises, individuals, families, and entire communities are affected by traumatic events. The editors invite manuscripts from clinicians who have utilized acupuncture and related integrative medical therapies to help people cope with physical and emotional injuries stemming from traumatic experience with a focus on humanitarian service efforts. We are interested in submissions from all cultural perspectives. We also welcome submissions that focus on the impact of traumatic stress on children and animals. Case series, original research, as well as review articles with a focus on practical application, are encouraged. The deadline for manuscript submission is: February 1, 2023. Learn more.

New Scientific Research Related to Acupuncture 


Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Anxiety Among Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial
[JAMA Network Open]
This study found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for anxiety in patients with PD. These findings suggest that acupuncture may enhance the wellbeing of patients who have Parkinson disease and anxiety.

Efficacy of Acupuncture Combined with Patient-Controlled Analgesia in the Treatment of Acute Pain after Back Surgery: A Meta-Analysis
[Pain Research and Management]
This systematic review found that acupuncture with PCA relieved acute pain after back surgery more effectively than PCA alone and could reduce opioid use and the incidence of postoperative PCA-related total complications

The Adjunctive Effects of Acupuncture for Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients: a Single-Blinded Randomized Clinical Study
[Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies]
Our study has shown promising results for the effects of combined treatment of acupuncture and pharmacologic treatment on the duration of the cough symptom in hospitalized COVID-19 patients with mild-moderate symptoms.

Laser acupuncture combined with auricular acupressure improves low-back pain and quality of life in nurses: A randomized controlled trial
[Journal of Integrative Medicine]
This study shows that 4-week LAA intervention reduced pain intensity and pain interference, and improved quality of life for hospital-based nurses with LBP. These effects were maintained continuously for at least 4 weeks after the intervention.


Note: Some of these news sources may require you to create a free account to read their content, while others may have a paywall.