Press Releases

Boozman, Tester & Heller Introduce Bill to Address Physician Staffing Shortages at VA

Aim to attract best & brightest doctors to VA system

Jul 31 2018

WASHINGTON—The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has long struggled to recruit and retain highly qualified physicians, but legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of senators would change that trend and level the competitive playing field for the VA.

Currently, the department is at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting medical students as the hiring process begins much earlier for private sector providers than it does for the VA. This results in the VA missing out on opportunities to compete for available residents.

The VA Hiring Enhancement Act—introduced by Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dean Heller (R-NV)—aims to align the department’s hiring processes with private sector organizations to allow the department to compete for the best and brightest doctors coming out of medical school by allowing it to extend contingency offers to residents earlier than currently authorized.      

“There are some incredible people working to deliver the best care to our veterans, but the VA simply does not have enough of them. For years, the VA has struggled to compete with the private sector to attract the best and brightest doctors. An answer to this problem has long eluded Congress, but we believe this bill can help make great strides to address the problem,” said Boozman.   

“The VA must have qualified medical professionals on staff to serve veterans,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “The VA Hiring Enhancement Act addresses workforce shortages by making the VA more competitive with the private sector when it recruits talented doctors, clinicians, and medical students.”

 “As a senior member of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’m working to see that every veteran has access to the quality care that they deserve. That’s why addressing the doctor shortage is a top priority of mine because it continues to particularly affect Nevada’s rural areas such as Elko, Gardnerville, and Pahrump, where the clinic that opened its doors two years ago still doesn’t have a full-time doctor,” said Heller. “I’m proud to join Senators Boozman and Tester to co-author this bipartisan legislation that aims to close the physician gap by making it easier for the VA to hire and retain skilled doctors to serve our nation’s heroes, and I look forward to continue working with them to send it to the President’s desk.” 

The VA Hiring Enhancement Act is among the bills which will be discussed during the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday. The bill has the support of key Veterans Service Organizations including the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans & Military Families for Progress. 

Specifically, the VA Hiring Enhancement Act seeks to:

  • Allow the VA to release physicians from non-compete agreements, provided they commit to VA services for at least one year, which makes it easier to hire local doctors since non-compete contracts are often designed to prevent doctors from competing with their previous employer in the same local area;
  • Grant the VA authority to make binding job offers up to two years prior to completion of residency which would help the VA become more proactive in its healthcare provider hiring practices and is particularly important to attracting specialists; and
  • Set the minimum education requirement for VA doctors as completion of residency.

The VA believes that portions of the bill “solves a problem known to medical facility Chiefs of Staff across the country,” and that the “legislation should make it easier to hire physicians.”