While partisan politics undeniably has its place in the nation’s capital, on Friday members of the U.S. House of Representatives put aside political bickering in order to support an issue everyone agrees on — taking better care of America’s veterans.
With the support of the entire Alabama delegation, the House unanimously passed H.R. 1367 in hopes of improving the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to recruit and retain high-quality health care providers and other professionals.
The department has tens of thousands of vacant positions, and the bill would help strengthen the VA’s ability to identify staffing shortages, recruit employees to fill vacant positions, quickly on-board new hires, and retain high-performing workers across the country. Additionally, it contains provisions that would improve leadership and accountability throughout VA system, while helping increase the number of veterans in the federal workforce.
Also included in the bill, was an amendment added by Alabama-Democrat 7th District U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell. The amendment encourages the VA Secretary to select eligible employees for its Fellowship Program who represent rural areas in order to alleviate the systemic burdens of rural healthcare workforce shortages.
“In return for their service, our country has a sacred obligation to care for our veterans and military families,” said Sewell. “Today’s bipartisan support for legislation that strengthens VA hiring practices is an important step towards providing more responsive, more effective healthcare for our nation’s heroes.”
Approximately 25 percent of America’s veterans live in rural communities and comprise nearly 11 percent of the adult rural population. Rural veterans account for 36 percent of all VA enrollees, making Sewell’s amendment particularly pertinent.
“My amendment helps to ensure that veterans who are serviced by rural VAs have access to healthcare experts with cutting edge experience in the public and private sectors,” Sewell continued. “On top of long driving distances and minimal access to care, workforce shortages make it harder for our rural veterans to get the help they need, when they need it. I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support, and I look forward to continuing our work to ensure that our nation keeps its promise to the men and women who serve our country.”