March 24, 2021

Senators Braun, Hassan, Representatives Latta, Rice introduce bipartisan bill to support a new VA program to help hire separating Defense personnel

WASHINGTON- Today, U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced bipartisan legislation that helps the Department of Veterans Affairs actively recruit and hire separating Department of Defense medical department personnel to help fill its more than 45,000 open positions.

The Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021 directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a program that will help actively recruit medical personnel, who are within one year of completing their military service, to remain in federal health care in departments like Veterans Affairs. 

Representatives Robert E. Latta (OH-05) and Kathleen M. Rice (NY-04) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The VA Inspector General has reported that staff shortages are a challenge for solving problems in Veteran care. This bill will empower the VA to proactively recruit active duty medical personnel who are separating from the military at the conclusion of their contract or at retirement to improve health care services for Veterans,” said Senator Braun.

“This commonsense, bipartisan bill will help address two critical issues: It will expand opportunities to recruit VA health care providers, as well as help increase veteran employment by recruiting newly separated veterans to work in VA Medical Centers,” Senator Hassan said. “I will continue to advocate for innovative solutions like these in order to support our veterans’ health and job opportunities.”

“During my time in Congress, I have worked to make sure veterans are provided with the resources they need to successfully reintegrate into civilian life,” said Congressman Latta. “I’m honored to join my colleagues in the Senate to reintroduce the bipartisan Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act, which will make it easier for veterans to use the skills they learned in the service to help other veterans.  At the same time, the VA will benefit from employing qualified and hardworking professionals who have already proven their love and dedication to this nation.  Moving this legislation should be a no-brainer.”

“The Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act will help the VA finally fill lingering employment vacancies and provide veterans with quality job opportunities after completing their military service,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice. “I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan legislation with Representative Latta, and I thank Senators Braun and Hassan for leading it in the Senate. We must work to push this common-sense bill through both chambers of Congress and get it signed into law.” 

BACKGROUND

In November 2019, the VA Inspector General stated that staff shortages are a root cause of many of the problems in Veterans’ care. The Department of Defense has robust medical departments in the Army, Navy, and Air Force totaling 111,462 Active Duty and 67,951 Reserve personnel in 2020. All or part of the medical education and training has been paid for by the Federal government. Their Military Occupation Specialties (MOSs) span the full spectrum of the medical professions from primary care physicians, to neurosurgeons, nurse practitioners, health care administrators, physical therapists, pharmacists, radiology technicians, medical logistician, biomedical maintenance, etc. All of these medical specialties can be utilized in the VHA, and their knowledge of the new electronic health record will also be invaluable. Currently, an average of 13,000 active duty medical department members separate from the military each year at the end of enlistments/contracts or through retirement. There is no formal program in place to actively recruit them to remain in federal health care in departments like Veterans Affairs (VA). We feel this must change. 

Read the full bill text: