In advance of legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs health system, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., March 22 sent a letter highlighting the importance of the VA-academic affiliations to House and Senate VA Committee leadership. The letter notes, “VA’s shared research, education, and patient care missions with academic medicine improve access and quality of care for veterans, both inside and outside the VA system.”
The AAMC letter endorses legislation designed to better align the VA and the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals, including:
- Delivering Opportunities for Care and Services (DOCs) for Veterans Act (S. 1676, H.R. 3755, H.R. 4011);
- Enhanced Veterans Health Care Act (H.R. 3879); and
- Improving Veterans Access to Care in the Community Act (S. 2633).
In the letter, Dr. Kirch stresses that “VA graduate medical education, joint ventures, sole-source contracting, and the proposed Core Network of the Veterans Choice Program help ensure access for our nation’s veterans to the highest quality care by preserving academic affiliates as a direct extension of VA care and a preferred provider.”
Meanwhile, the House and Senate VA Committees held separate hearings March 22 and March 15, respectively, on pending legislation to improve VA care in the community. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald testified at the Senate hearing on the importance of the proposed VA Core Network. His written testimony states, “Tiered networks are essential to enhance VA’s coordination of care, allow better oversight of providers, help ensure Veteran satisfaction, as well as ensure VA’s teaching and training mission that is a key part of training for the Nation’s health care system as a whole is maintained.”
VA Deputy Assistant Under Secretary for Community Care Baligh Yehia, M.D., testified at both hearings. Referring to VA’s academic relationships at the House hearing, Dr. Yehia noted, “Growing them will ensure that veterans continue to have access to not only quality care but in many circumstances state of the art care while ensuring that we continue to train the next generation of clinicians that will serve veterans.”