This week, from their perches on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, two Florida Republican congressmen highlighted a bill to help recruit and retain doctors in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., showcased his “Veterans Affairs Physician Recruitment Act” which creates scholarships recruiting medical students to work at VA facilities. In exchange for the scholarship, the student would, upon graduation, work at a VA facility for at least two years. The bill also reforms the VA student loan repayment program benefits for medical students who will work for the VA.
Rutherford pointed to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General report which shows the average age of the 25,268 doctors across the nation is 51.5 years old with almost 20 percent of them already eligible for retirement. The First Coast Republican said this was increasingly a problem in the VA medical system.
“I have heard from VA leadership, veteran service organizations, and veterans in my district who have asked Congress and the VA to urgently work together to curb the physician shortage at VA,” Rutherford said on Tuesday. “When the VA struggles to fill these positions, veterans experience longer wait times and a decrease in the quality of care. We must equip the VA system with the tools it needs to compete with the private sector and other governmental programs to ensure it is fully staffed with qualified providers. This includes recruiting physicians who are in medical school or those who are recently graduated and assist in their education expenses in exchange for their services within the VA system. My bill is one of the many ways we are working to honor our promise to care for veterans. I thank my colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee for supporting this important piece of legislation for our veterans and look forward to it being considered.”
U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., who worked as a doctor during his time in the Army, is a cosponsor of the bill.
“Ensuring our veterans have access to the care they need and deserve is one of our top priorities in Congress,” Dun said. “Not only does this require streamlining the bureaucracy our veterans face on a daily basis, it also requires making sure our clinics and centers are adequately staffed. This legislation will help ensure our veterans receive the care they have earned, and I commend Congressman Rutherford for his leadership on this issue.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Col., and U.S. Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-AS, are also cosponoring the bill. After Rutherford introduced the bill last week, it was sent to the Veterans Affairs Committee. So far, there is no companion legislation over in the U.S. Senate.
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