Coffman Introduces Veterans Affairs Physician Recruitment Act

Seeks to Address VA Staffing Shortages

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Washington, October 31, 2017 | Daniel Bucheli (202-225-7882) | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) joined his colleagues, John Rutherford (R-FL), Neal Dunn (FL), and Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (AS) to introduce H.R. 4132, the Veterans Affairs Physician Recruitment Act of 2017.’ H.R. 4132 gives the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) the tools it needs attract and retain physicians now and in the future, improving the quality and access to care for our nation’s veterans.

While the VA has several programs to address recruitment, physician shortages remain a significant challenge.  HR. 4132 would establish a scholarship program to recruit medical students in exchange for service at a VA healthcare facility.  The bill 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 Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA). 

The VA has to aggressively address staffing shortages, not only in the Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS), but nationwide as well. This bill allows the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be competitive in recruiting healthcare providers, especially physicians, which face the largest staffing shortage in the Veterans Health Administration. The ECHCS is the third fastest growing VA Health Care System in the nation, and therefore this bill is critical to helping the VA keep up with the increase in demand. As a Marine Corps combat veteran, I will continue to make sure the VA has the tools necessary to recruit the best healthcare providers to take care of our veterans said Coffman.

Rep. John Rutherford said, “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.  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.”

As of March 2017, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employs 25,268 full and part time physicians, with an average age of 51.5 years old. Eighteen percent of VA physicians are eligible for regular retirement, with that number growing to more than half within the next ten years.

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