VA Secretary Provides Status Update for the Department
By PVA Staff
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough recently held a press conference providing information regarding the status of various VA initiatives. He reported that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) conducted three million in-person health care appointments in January, an increase of 11 percent compared to the same time last year. VHA also provided 827,000 telehealth appointments (three percent increase) and approved 543,000 Community Care authorizations (20 percent increase). Part of these increases can be attributed to veterans seeking services that were previously unavailable or delayed due to the pandemic.
The Secretary also said VA is currently experiencing its highest turnover of nurses in many years. He noted that nurses can make upwards of $200,000 working in the private sector whereas VA’s compensation rates are less and limited by statute. The Secretary has spoken with numerous lawmakers about the problem, and they recognize the nursing shortage is not just a VA problem, but rather a national one. He urged Congress to move quickly on H.R. 5575, the VA Nurse and Physician Assistant RAISE Act, (PVA-supported legislation) to make VA salaries more competitive by allowing the department to raise existing pay caps for many of its providers and nurses. He also stressed the importance of Congress providing VA with its full fiscal year 2022 budget allocation verses another continuing resolution, noting that doing so would allow the department to absorb the cost of the higher salaries.
Secretary McDonough also talked about the upcoming Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. He expects VA’s recommendations will be released in mid-March even though the members of the AIR Commission itself have not yet been named and confirmed. VA does not expect to leave any market, but he indicated they may not maintain a full VA facility at some of its existing locations. Instead, VA plans to use outpatient care coupled with strategic collaboration and increased use of local providers and hospital systems to ensure veterans receive the care they need.
Get additional information on the VA’s YouTube channel.