Wins include prevention of cuts to medical and health personnel and sufficient VA funding for 2019-2020 fiscal year
Jan. 24, 2020 (ACP) – In recent months, the American College of Physicians has seen some wins for internists in the Armed Forces and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the end-of-year appropriations bills and in Veterans Affairs (VA) funding.
On the military front, ACP was concerned about a proposal to cut 18,000 uniformed medical personnel from the Department of Defense. “ACP strongly advocated for Congress to intervene and prohibit any health workforce reductions until the issue received adequate and appropriate review,” said Jared Frost, an ACP senior associate for legislative affairs.
Fortunately, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 includes a provision to prevent the department from moving forward with any proposed cuts to medical and health personnel without carefully considering the impact of any cuts and reporting to Congress. “We're pleased that we were able to speak out on this important issue,” Frost said.
ACP also advocated for sufficient VA funding for the 2020 fiscal year. “We were concerned about there being enough resources for both traditional VHA health services and implementation of the VA Mission Act for community care delivered outside of the VHA,” Frost said. “ACP worked throughout 2019 to advocate that traditional VHA services remain robust and well-enough funded.”
The VA Mission Act aims to increase health care opportunities for veterans by expanding their access to medical services in the community outside the VHA system.
ACP is also pleased that the VHA ultimately received more than $90 billion in the budget, including almost $9 billion to fund VA Mission Act activities. “ACP will continue to work this year to make sure that fiscal year 2021 appropriations continue to fund the VHA and the community care programs adequately, although we anticipate that being challenging in a tight budget environment,” Frost said.
A significant number of ACP members are employed, full-time or part-time, by the VHA, and many members treat veterans outside the system. “ACP has strong natural ties to VHA,” said Brian Outland, ACP's director of regulatory affairs. “ACP recognizes the important health care services that VHA provides to this nation's military veterans, supports maintaining the integrity of this system of care, and supports the adequate appropriation of funds to allow the VHA to provide timely and high-quality health care services.”
Moving forward, ACP's advocacy in this area will focus on lobbying for training support for residents within the VHA system. “A large number of physicians benefit from the training programs provided by and directed through the VA,” Outland said. “Jeopardizing these training programs and working opportunities could have a far-reaching downstream effect not only on the nation's veterans but on the nation as a whole.”