Klobuchar, Grassley Introduce Legislation to Recruit Health Professionals to Serve at Veterans' Medical Facilities
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have introduced legislation that would ensure veterans' medical facilities can recruit qualified mental health professionals, doctors, dentists and nurses. The bill would designate Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities and state veterans' homes as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) which would allow the facilities to compete for National Health Service Corps fellows. The program provides service-obligated scholarships and loan forgiveness to health professional students who pledge to practice in a HPSA for at least two years.
"The men and women who served our country should receive the highest quality healthcare possible and that means having access to the best health care professionals," said Klobuchar. "Many veterans' facilities, especially in rural areas, are in need of additional medical staff, and this bill will give them the ability to recruit health care professionals and ensure that our veterans are receiving the care they deserve."
"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," said Grassley.
The bill would allow veterans' facilities with a need for additional health care professionals to apply to be designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area. Once designated, these facilities have access to National Health Service Corps fellows who serve at HPSAs in exchange for loan repayment or scholarship funding. The bill would also require the Departments of Health & Human Services and Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a process for veterans' facilities to qualify as HPSAs.
The VA has experienced unprecedented growth in its medical system workload over the past few years. The number of patients treated by the VA increased by 29 percent from 4.2 million in 2001 to nearly 5.5 million in 2008. The VA treats nearly 9,000 new patients per month from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, according to the VA's Inspector General, one in four veterans waits at least one month to see a doctor.