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ACP Calls for Policies to Strengthen Health Care for Our Nation’s Veterans

WASHINGTON, DC, October 5, 2021 –The health care needs of our nation’s veterans are unique, and the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) service needs to be supported and strengthened so that it can continue to meet those needs, says the American College of Physicians (ACP).  In a new paper titled Health Care for Our Nation’s Veterans, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ACP says that the VHA is a crucial part of our nation’s health care system; however, it faces many challenges that include an aging infrastructure, implementation of a new electronic health records system, and achieving access and care continuity with non-VHA clinicians.

“The VHA system is an important piece of our nation’s health care system,” said Thomas G. Cooney, MD, MACP, chair, Board of Regents, ACP.  “In addition to providing health care services to our nation’s veterans, the VHA has fostered important research and innovations that benefit both veterans and non-veterans while training millions of physicians and other health care professionals.”

The paper details the challenges currently facing the system and makes a series of recommendations aimed at strengthening and preserving the system for future veterans, including:

  • Because of the unique, specialized role in serving our nation’s veterans, lawmakers must ensure adequate funding to provide timely and high-quality healthcare services and to sustain the VHA’s health professions education, emergency preparedness, and research programs.
  • The Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) should act as a safety-valve to ensure that veterans are able to receive timely, local, and appropriate care if it is not available to them through the VHA. VCCP clinicians should closely coordinate patient care with the VHA. ACP believes that the VCCP should not replace the VHA.
  • The VHA should provide full-coverage for higher-income veterans without service-connected disabilities. Cost-sharing for high-value services should be reduced or eliminated.
  • The VHA needs to work to identify and eliminate unnecessary administrative tasks that contribute to burnout among physicians and other health care professionals.
  • The VHA needs additional funding and resources to recruit and retain mission-critical physicians and other health care team members.
  • Stable and sufficient funding is needed to provide health professions training through the VHA. Medical schools and residency programs also need to provide veteran-specific training to prepare physicians to deliver care to veterans in the community and the VHA.
  • The Patient-Aligned Care Team model needs to be continued to better provide patient-centered, coordinated care. The VHA also needs to prioritize models that identify, diagnose, and treat veterans with specific care needs, including women, veterans with suicide risk, depression, military sexual trauma, and substance use disorders.
  • Sufficient funding is needed for the VHA’s research and development mission. The VHA should also act to accelerate clinical implementation of research findings into real world settings. 

“In my time providing care to our patients in the VHA system, I have seen how the system is designed to meet the specific health care needs of veterans. I’ve also seen how innovations VHA has developed in this dedicated system have improved care for our veterans and served as a model for healthcare outside our system,” continued Dr. Cooney.  “Ensuring that the VHA is able to continue providing top-quality, specialized care to our patients is critical to caring for our nation’s veterans who have sacrificed so much for all of us.”

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About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 161,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org