U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District offered an amendment on the House floor to veterans legislation that addresses the need to fix a doctor shortage at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities in New Mexico and across the country.
Luján’s amendment passed by voice vote with unanimous support. Below are his remarks as delivered. Click here to watch Luján’s speech.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. My amendment directs the VA to produce a report related to the part-time employment of active duty military physicians at VA health facilities. In 2014, Congress passed the Veteran Choice Act to help address the access to care crisis facing our nation’s veterans. As part of those reforms, the legislation called for a Commission on Care to examine how best to strategically organize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), locate health care resources, and deliver health care to veterans over the next 20 years. The report was released on July 15th of this year.
“The report’s very first recommendation highlights VHA’s provider shortages and suggests the VHA should expand their provider networks. They specify: ‘These providers must be fully credentialed with appropriate education, training, and experience, provide veterans access that meets VHA standards, demonstrate high quality clinical and utilization outcomes, and demonstrate military cultural competency.’
“Recently, it came to my attention that active duty military physicians are confronting a number of hurdles when seeking part-time positions at our VA facilities and that these hurdles are preventing an entire group of physicians who exceed these standards from caring for our veterans.
“The Department of Defense employs over 11,000 active duty military physicians. For many reasons, a number of these physicians choose to seek part-time employment in civilian hospitals. In fact, physician moonlighting is encouraged by the Department of Defense. Yet, despite these military doctors exceeding all of the VA’s employment standards, longstanding red tape seems to be preventing the VA from hiring them.
“At a time when VA facilities across the country are struggling to hire enough physicians, we cannot afford to turn away qualified doctors. Recently, my office raised this issue with the Veterans Health Administration and I appreciate the VHA’s willingness to work with me on this issue. However, we need to get these facts on record in order to continue the conversation and address this issue.
“I’d also like to thank Chairman Miller for giving me the opportunity to raise this issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do what we can to help soldiers treat our vets.
“While I greatly appreciate all physicians who chose to use their training, skills and time to serve our nation’s veterans, there is no one more naturally equipped to care for our vets than our military physicians.”