Chuck Grassley has introduced legislation with Amy Klobuchar to help ensure veterans' medical facilities can adequately compete for qualified mental health professionals, doctors, dentists and nurses.
The legislation designates Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities and state veterans' homes as Health Professional Shortage Areas which allows the facilities to compete for National Health Service Corps fellows. The program makes student loan repayments to doctors, dentists, and mental health professionals who pledge to practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area for at least two years.
"Making sure our veterans get the care they need also means making sure that health care professionals are available to help them. This legislation gives our veterans facilities an opportunity to tap into a network of providers ready and willing to support our men and women who fought for our freedom," Grassley said.
Veterans facilities that apply to be designated a Health Professional Shortage Area must show a need for additional health care professionals. Once designated, the facilities compete with other eligible sites to hire the National Health Service Corps fellows. The legislation does not allow National Health Service Corps fellows to simultaneously receive scholarship or loan repayment benefits from other VA employee programs.
Grassley said that as more and more Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans seek health care, the VA needs to be prepared to handle an increase in patients. "This legislation provides another avenue for the VA to get the personnel it needs to help our wounded warriors," Grassley said.
Grassley has also been pressing the VA for answers about its claims backlog. A recent case before the Supreme Court revealed that VA decisions to deny veterans benefit claims are not only being overturned at a high rate, but that in as many as 70 percent of the cases, the VA's position is not even substantially justified. Grassley said that the fact that VA decisions are overturned with this kind of frequency, meaning they were wrongly decided in the first place, is an indication of serious, systemic problems with the way the VA considers the benefits claims made by veterans.