07.29.14

Baldwin’s Efforts to Address VA Medical Staff Shortage Included in Bipartisan Compromise to Reform the VA

Washington D.C. – A provision modeled after U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s bill to help address the serious physician shortage within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been included in the bipartisan, comprehensive VA reform compromise to bring accountability to the VA and expand access to veterans’ health care.

“I offered legislation to strengthen our VA health care workforce by increasing residency positions. So I am pleased that a provision modeled after my legislation has been included in the bipartisan compromise to reform the VA,” said Baldwin. “We must address the unacceptable wait times our veterans are experiencing and my legislation will help guarantee our veterans receive high quality health care in a timely manner. As this provision is implemented, I will work with the VA to ensure that Wisconsin VA facilities—through existing and new partnerships with local medical schools—have the opportunity to host additional residency positions.”

Senator Baldwin’s bill, the Veterans Affairs Health Workforce Enhancement Act, addresses the serious physician shortage within the VA that keeps veterans waiting far too long for care. Specifically, Baldwin’s bill increases the number of VA Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions in needed specialties, including primary care and mental health.

The bipartisan VA reform legislation that will be voted on this week increases GME residents by not less than 1,500, allocating the positions among the five occupations of health care providers with the largest staffing shortages as determined by the VA Office of Inspector General.

This strengthens the VA health care system by enhancing the capacity of the VA to train more physicians and helps increase the number of physicians with experience in veteran care, which would help retain and recruit post-residency physicians to practice in the VA.

The bipartisan VA reform bill, authored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), also includes the following provisions:

  • Provides authority to the VA to quickly remove and replace officials found to have been involved in any mishandling of veteran medical care or exhibiting poor job performance.
  • Allows veterans to see private doctors outside of the VA system if they experience long wait times or live more than 40 miles away from a VA facility.
  • Improves the delivery of care to veterans who experienced sexual trauma while serving in the military.
  • Allows all veterans to qualify for in-state tuition under the Post 9/11 GI bill.
  • Extends a program, which is about to expire, that provides housing for veterans who are struggling with traumatic brain injury.

Baldwin was also a supporter and co-sponsor of the Ensuring Veterans Access to Care Act, which passed the Senate 93-6 in June and was the base for the compromise VA reform bill being voted on this week in the U.S. Senate.