Braley Reintroduces Legislation to Improve Access to Veterans’ Health Care Facilities

Nov 20, 2013 Issues: Health, Veterans Affairs

Seeing need for improved health care for veterans, Iowan recommends idea for Veterans Access to Care Act

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) reintroduced the Veterans Access to Care Act today, legislation that seeks to expand veterans’ access to quality healthcare by helping the Veterans Administration and state veterans’ homes recruit more highly-qualified doctors, nurses, and mental health providers to provide services to America’s veterans.

The legislation would make veterans’ care facilities eligible to hire National Health Service Corps fellows, helping attract recent medical school graduates to careers helping veterans.

Braley said, “Our veterans deserve the highest quality health care, but in order for this to happen veterans’ health care facilities need to have the resources to hire from a top-notch pool of medical talent. Encouraging the best and brightest to practice in interest of public will increase the quality of care our veterans receive.

“Working with members of the National Health Service Corps allows veterans’ health care facilities to attract high quality medical professionals who have chosen to give back to their country. Providing our veterans with high quality care while encouraging top medical professionals to give back to the community is a win-win.”

The National Health Service Corps is a national scholarship program operated by the US Department of Health and Human Services that pays medical school expenses for future doctors, nurses, and health practitioners who agree to work in medically underserved areas after graduation.  Braley’s bill would simply add Veterans Administration facilities and state veterans’ homes as eligible “underserved areas” in which graduates would be eligible to serve.

Braley first introduced legislation similar to the Veterans Access to Care Act in 2010 and reintroduced it in February 2012.

Dr. Douglas Steenblock, Chief of Mental Health Services at the Iowa Veterans’ Home in Marshalltown, approached Braley with the idea for the bill.  Steenblock is himself a former fellow of the National Health Service Corps.

Steenblock said, “A veterans’ health care facility is a unique environment – one which can create hurdles when it comes to recruiting top medical professionals. This is particularly true in rural areas where many of Iowa’s veterans reside.

“For years, the Iowa Veterans’ Home Mental Health Department has struggled to remain fully staffed despite continued efforts to hire personnel. The National Health Service Corps has an established track record and is a powerful incentive for recruiting and retaining high quality healthcare providers in underserved areas.

“Adapting this program to veterans’ facilities would be relatively simple and would unquestionably improve the quality of healthcare for veterans, particularly those who live in Iowa’s smaller towns and cities.”

The text of the bill can be downloaded at the following link: http://1.usa.gov/1b5UdRh