WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation this week to increase the number of health professionals serving veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Sen. Moran’s bill, introduced with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), will provide veterans who served as medics in the armed forces with the opportunity to attain the education and training needed to become a physician assistant.
“I am proud to introduce this initiative to support the servicemen and women who are transitioning back to civilian life,” Sen. Moran said. “The GOOD Pilot Program would allow veterans who have served their country and fellow service members as medics to leverage their unique skills and training to further their careers. It would also help to make certain their fellow veterans have greater access to timely, quality care.”
Currently, veterans who served as medics have the opportunity to work at the VA through the Intermediate Care Technicians (ICT) Pilot Program, but they do not receive the additional training they need to advance their careers at the VA.
Sen. Moran’s bill would authorize the Grow Our Own Directive (GOOD) Pilot Program for five years to advance training and education opportunities for participants of the ICT program, individuals who agree to work in VA facilities in underserved states, and former service members with military health experience. Once veterans are certified as physician assistants, they would be required to work at the VA for at least three years. Additionally, this bill would require the VA to establish competitive pay for physician assistants employed by the Department.
Physician assistants are one of the most in-demand positions at the VA. In September, USA Today reported that there is a 23 percent vacancy rate at the VA for physician assistants. According to the Veterans Affairs Physicians Assistants Association, there are an estimated 30,000 open physician assistant positions in the United States, making it difficult for the VA to recruit and retain physician assistants.
This bill is endorsed by the Veteran Affairs Physician Assistant Association, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the Blinded Veterans Association, Vietnam Veterans of America, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS).
“Ready access to quality patient care is among the most critical issues facing our nation’s veterans at VA healthcare facilities. We are thrilled that Senators Tester and Moran have sponsored legislation to increase the PA workforce, while creating a pathway for veterans to be educated in this critical healthcare profession. This creative model, along with needed policy improvements, holds great promise for the recruitment and retention of PAs at the VA,” said Jennifer L. Dorn CEO of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.