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  • Washington Highlights

    House VA Committee Approves Veteran Community Care Bill

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

    The House Committee on Veterans Affairs Dec. 19 approved the VA Care in the Community Act (H.R. 4242). Of importance to medical schools and teaching hospitals, the House bill retains VA’s authority for direct health care resource contracts with VA’s academic affiliates under 38 U.S. Code § 8153, often referred to as sole-source affiliate contracts.

    During mark up, the Committee approved an amendment offered by Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.) that would improve VA’s recruitment of physicians. The amendment would establish:

    • A scholarship program to recruit at least 50 medical and dental students per year to the VA after they complete their training. The program expires when VA’s staffing shortages drop below 500 physicians and dentists.
    • A “Specialty Education Loan Repayment Program” that repays up to $160,000 of student loans over 4 years for physicians and medical residents in specialties that are determined “difficult to recruit” by the Secretary.
    • A VA Office of Academic Affiliations pilot program to fund up to 18 veterans enrolled in Teague-Cranston or HBCU medical schools, consisting of: Texas A&M College of Medicine, Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and Morehouse School of Medicine.

    The Senate VA Committee Sept. 29 approved its own version of VA reform legislation [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 7]. In a press release, Chairman Roe stated, “I am confident we’ll be able to come to a bicameral agreement to expand veterans’ options for care. This process will undoubtedly continue in the second session, and I hope the Democrats on this committee will return in January and negotiate in good faith to give veterans the health care they deserve.”