The AAMC joined the six other members of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) executive committee in a Nov. 5 letter to House Veterans Affairs (VA) Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) to endorse their legislation, the VA Infrastructure Powers Exceptional Research (VIPER) Act of 2021 (H.R. 5721).
The VIPER Act was introduced on Oct. 25 and aims to improve the VA Medical and Prosthetic Research program by providing additional authority and resources for VA research.
“Your legislation would add stability and efficiency for the VA research program by formally authorizing VA’s Office of Research and Development and excluding VA research from Paperwork Reduction Act requirements, better aligning VA with other federal research agencies,” wrote the FOVA executive committee. “We also appreciate that the VIPER Act would work to enhance the diversity of the VA research workforce, increasing scientific opportunities and leading to improved health care for veterans.”
The bill also includes provisions to:
- Expand the VA’s hiring authority for certain classes of research occupations, including data scientists and statisticians.
- Create a career development award grant program for researchers at smaller universities.
- Mandate a Government Accountability Office study on the retention of VA clinician-scientists and the productivity of their research.
The letter also acknowledged the continued need for infrastructure support for information and physical laboratory improvements for the VA research program “to ensure that VA researchers have access to the cutting-edge technology that yields state-of-the-art research and improved health outcomes.” The executive committee offered to work with lawmakers to support any additional efforts they might undertake to address those needs.
The House VA Committee held a legislative hearing on July 14 to discuss a draft of the VIPER Act [refer to Washington Highlights, July 16]. The introduced bill reflects changes requested by committee members and the VA.