LEGISLATIVE UPDATE - Rep. Rutherford’s VA Physician Recruitment Act Advances to House

December 19, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously voted to advance H.R. 4242, the VA Care in the Community Act, to the full House for consideration. This bill will streamline the VA’s community care programs while also working to improve VA’s internal capacity to care for veteran patients. An amendment included by Congressman Rutherford would help VA fill health care provider positions, which are in critical shortage, by improving physician recruitment.

Congressman John Rutherford said, “Ensuring our veterans have access to the care they need and deserve is one of my top priorities in Congress. I have spoken with VA leadership, many veteran service organizations, and veterans in my district, and all have asked the VA to work urgently to curb the physician shortage. Veterans experience longer wait times and less access to quality of care because not enough doctors work within the VA system. My amendment equips the VA with the tools it needs to compete with the private sector and other governmental programs to ensure it is staffed with high quality providers. I thank my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee for supporting this important legislation for our veterans and look forward to it passing through the House.” 

Though VA has been collaborating with community providers to treat veterans since 1945, the recent increase in veteran demand for community care has highlighted serious issues and inefficiencies within the VA’s community care system. For example, VA currently uses six different methods to refer veteran patients to community providers. These six different methods often conflict with one another, creating confusion for veterans, community providers and VA employees alike. This bill is bipartisan legislation that streamlines VA’s community care programs, while also working to improve VA’s internal capacity to care for veteran patients.

While the VA has several programs to address recruitment, physician shortages remain their most urgent priority. Congressman Rutherford’s amendment addresses this challenge by establishing a scholarship program to recruit medical students in exchange for service at a VA facility.  It also standardizes and increases VA student loan repayment program benefits for new medical school graduates or those currently in residency who will be training in specialties deemed as shortages within the VHA.  Participants in this program are obligated to provide clinical services at VA facilities for a minimum of two years.