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  • Washington Highlights

    House Passes Veterans Reform Package

    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs

    The Senate Dec. 10 and the House of Representatives Dec. 6 unanimously passed the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016 (H.R. 6416), which would make several changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

    Among other provisions, H.R. 6416 authorizes advance appropriations for VA Medical Community Care beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2018.  The VA Medical Community Care account was created in 2015 to consolidate all community care programs under a single appropriation. In September, Congress provided $7.2 billion for FY 2017 Medical Community Care as a transfer from other advance appropriations and approved $9.4 billion in advance appropriations for FY 2018.

    Of importance to academic medicine, H.R. 6416 extends from five years to 10 years the VA’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) Enhancement initiative to award up to 1,500 new VA residency positions. Now ending in 2024, the VA GME Enhancement was mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA, P.L. 113-146).

    H.R. 6416 would also repeal the requirement for VA medical centers to institute compensation panels to determine market pay for physicians and dentists.

    The bill now heads to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law before he leaves office, or it would have to be reintroduced in the 115th Congress.