Tester’s Physician Assistant bill receives support from VA and veterans advocates

GOOD Act will train more Physician Assistants and reduce wait times at the VA

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester’s Grow Our Own Directive (GOOD) Act received an endorsement from the VA and veterans advocates during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.

Tester’s bill will provide veterans who served as medics and corpsmen in the armed forces with the opportunity to attain the education and training needed to become a Physician Assistant.

“We need to recruit and retain more medical professionals in order to reduce wait times at the VA, and that includes Physician Assistants,” Tester said. “This bill provides a cost-effective strategy that supports former servicemembers as they launch their career and it provides the additional staffing needed to better take care of our veterans.”

The VA applauded Tester’s bill and identified it as a way to address the current staffing shortages.

“We’re enthusiastic about the bill. We think it’s a really wonderful idea for the veterans who would be receiving care. For the veterans who are leaving the military, it’s a wonderful opportunity to transition and build their skills and have them serve veterans,” said Maureen McCarthy, M.D., the VA’s Acting Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health and Patient Care Services.

Currently, veterans who served as medics have the opportunity to work at the VA through the Intermediate Care Technicians (ICT) Pilot Program, but they do not receive the additional training they need to advance their careers at the VA.

Tester’s bill will authorize the GOOD Pilot Program for five years to advance training and education opportunities for participants of the ICT program, individuals who agree to work in VA facilities in underserved states, and former service members with military health experience. Once these veterans are certified as Physician Assistants, they will be required to work at the VA for at least three years. Additionally, this bill will require the VA to establish competitive pay for physician assistants employed by the Department.

Physician Assistants are one of the most in-demand positions at the VA. In September, USA Today reported that there is a 23 percent vacancy rate at the VA for physician assistants.

According to the Veterans Affairs Physicians Assistants Association, there are an estimated 30,000 open Physician Assistant positions in the U.S., making it difficult for the VA to recruit and retain physician assistants.

Last week Tester unveiled his State of Veterans in Montana Report that provides transparency and pushes for accountability at the VA.