Paul Klotman, MD, president, chief executive officer, and executive dean of the Baylor College of Medicine, testified at a May 17 joint hearing of the House Veterans Affairs (VA) Subcommittee on Health and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations entitled “VA Research: Focusing on Funding, Findings, and Partnerships.” In his testimony, Dr. Klotman highlighted the benefits, value, and innovations that result from VA research collaborations with medical schools as well as academic affiliations broadly.
In his opening remarks, Rep. Neal Dunn, MD, (R-Fla.) who presided over the hearing, questioned whether ongoing VA research was veteran-focused and whether VA’s non-profit corporations (NPCs) should be used more frequently to administer grants form non-VA sources, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). VA Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) highlighted the importance of VA relationships with academic affiliates and expressed concern that VA research funding is not keeping pace with inflation.
Other witnesses included Robin Rusconi, JD, chair of the board of the directors at the National Association of Veterans’ Research & Education Foundations (NAVREF); Carolyn Clancy, MD, executive in charge, Veterans Health Administration; and Rachel B. Ramoni, DMD., ScD, chief research and development officer, Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA witnesses agreed with members of the committee that VA could do a better job publicizing their research priorities and outcomes.
Much of the hearing focused on concern regarding NIH Facilities and Administration (F&A) reimbursement rates when academic affiliates or non-profit corporations (NPCs) administer grants for VA investigators. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) suggested that dual appointments of VA instigators created a conflict of interest and that academic affiliates were a higher cost option. In response, Dr. Ramoni noted that academic affiliates’ NIH off-campus F&A rates were on par or lower than NPCs when research was performed at the VA. Dr. Klotman also noted that medical schools’ support and collaborations were a better value with additional resources compared to the NPC.
Meanwhile, the House passed the “VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018” (H.R. 5674) [see Washington Highlights, May 11]. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation before the Memorial Day congressional recess.