Bolstering Care for Veterans Aim of Bipartisan Tester Bill
Chairman introduced VA CAREERS Act day one of legislative session to tackle chronic medical personnel shortages across the country through increased recruitment and retention flexibilities
Kicking off the new Congress, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) teamed up with U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at bolstering recruitment and retention of clinicians, particularly those in rural areas, at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA Clinician Appreciation, Recruitment, Education, Expansion, and Retention Support (CAREERS) Act would provide VA with more tools to compete for highly qualified medical personnel, support training for current and future VA clinicians to ensure veterans receive the highest quality of care, and provide more oversight and public transparency on VA’s efforts to address vacancies. This legislation would also better prepare VA manage care for the thousands of veterans newly eligible under the Senator’s Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act.
“As Chairman, I often hear from veterans in Montana and across the country about the lack of providers in rural communities,” said Tester. “We need VA to hire providers faster and be able to retain high-quality talent in rural areas. That’s why I’m proud to be joining my friend Senator Boozman on this bipartisan effort to ensure VA can recruit the best and brightest clinicians to help deliver veterans—including those in rural areas—their earned health care and benefits.”
“As I visit with VA personnel across Arkansas, they frequently describe the persistent challenges with filling critical roles to provide care to veterans,” said Boozman. “Our legislation expands the VA workforce in communities nationwide and creates a sustainable pipeline, strengthening its ability to attract expert physicians. Ensuring the VA is properly staffed is key to fulfilling our promise to the men and women who served in uniform.”
“Chairman Tester’s VA CAREERS Act will have a big impact on ensuring veterans in Montana have access to their earned health care benefits,” said John Burgess, President of Northwest Montana Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. “I believe it will give the VA what it needs to get the clinicians in the areas they are needed and give the highest quality of care to our nation’s veterans.”
“Senator Tester’s VA CAREERS Act has the potential to have a major impact on access to care for veterans across Montana, especially given the geographical diversity of the state,” said Lawrence B.G. Rhone, U.S. Army disabled American veteran and National Project Manager for the Farmer Veteran Coalition. “That’s why I’m glad he’s leading to push to deliver on this promise for our state’s veterans.”
Among its many provisions the VA CAREERS Act will:
- Modernize VA’s antiquated pay system for physicians and other high-level clinicians, which will especially benefit rural and other hard-to-hire markets;
- Pay for licensure exam costs for future clinicians participating in VA scholarship programs;
- Expand eligibility for more health care staff to be reimbursed for ongoing professional education costs; and
- Increase and fine-tune VA’s workforce data reporting requirements to help VA and Congress be better informed on how to improve the hiring and onboarding process.
Last Congress, Tester successfully secured key workforce provisions to support VA in the PACT Act and in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)for Fiscal Year 2023. The PACT Act, aimed at delivering toxic-exposed veterans their earned care and benefits, included several provisions to bolster VA’s workforce, especially in rural areas. This included resources for VA to increase hiring and retention, develop a national VA Rural Recruitment and Hiring Plan, and buy-out non-VA service contracts for health care professionals. The law also increased the cap VA can pay towards student loan repayments and provides an easier pathway to those new to the workforce, either in or recently finished their higher education, to work at the Department.
Text of the VA CAREERS Act can be found HERE.