Testers landmark DOCS for Veterans Act receives support from VA during Senate hearing
Senator continues push to recruit and retain more doctors at the VA
(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester's push to recruit and retain more doctors at the VA received a boost from a high-ranking VA official today, who voiced his support for the DOCS for Veterans Act during a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing.
VA Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health Clinical Operations Dr. Thomas Lynch endorsed the residency provision in Tester's DOCS for Veterans Act as an effective way to fill the 1,500 residency positions that were authorized by the Choice Act, but remain largely unfilled.
"Creating more residencies is the surest way to create a steady pipeline of medical professionals into rural communities and into the VA," said Tester, Montana's only member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. "This bill will lead to more doctors training in our VA facilities and ultimately joining the VA workforce. It will lead to better outcomes for veterans."
Tester then asked Lynch if the DOCS for Veterans Act gives the VA the flexibility and tools it needs to fill the 1,500 residency positions authorized by the Choice Act.
"I think this is a good strategy, Senator, " responded Lynch.
Today the VA has only filled 163 of the 1,500 residency positions authorized by the Choice Act because the current cap on Medicare-funded residency positions is restricting local hospitals and clinics from partnering with the VA to establish these additional residencies.
Tester's DOCS for Veterans Act ensures that the 1,500 additional residency slots authorized by the Choice Act do not count toward the current cap on Medicare-funded residency positions, which allows local affiliates like the Billings Clinic to partner with the VA.
Lynch also voiced the VA's strong support for a provision in the DOCS for Veterans Act that will better enable the VA to recruit skilled and experienced leaders to serve as directors of VA medical facilities. Tester's provision would help the VA to more effectively address its large number of leadership vacancies across the country. Recently, the Fort Harrison Director position sat vacant for nearly a year, and Lynch testified at the hearing that as many as 30 percent of these positions across the country are currently vacant.
In July, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously passed four provisions of Tester's DOCS for Veterans Act.
Tester's legislation has been endorsed by the Air Force Sergeants Association; American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine; American Legion; American Mental Health Counselors Association; AMVETS; Blinded Veterans Association; Disabled American Veterans; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America; Military Officers Association of America; Montana Mental Health Counselors Association; National Alliance on Mental Illness; National Board for Certified Counselors; National Guard Association of the United States; Paralyzed Veterans of America; The Retired Enlisted Association; and the Veterans Affairs Physician Assistant Association.