Senators, Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Jon Tester (D-MT), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, recently introduced the Serving Our Rural Veterans Act of 2017. This legislation would authorize a new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pilot program to have medical students conduct their residencies with the VA at tribal healthcare facilities in rural communities.
“Veterans living in rural communities, far from population centers, face unique challenges accessing the care they have earned and deserve,” said Senator Sullivan. “This VA pilot program builds upon pre-existing partnerships and the strong network of tribal healthcare facilities in Alaska and other states, by expanding the reach of the VA so that veterans don’t have to travel hundreds to thousands of miles for care they could readily access in their community. An added benefit of the program is enabling medical residents to experience states like Alaska, where many will undoubtedly choose to make a living - a huge plus for a state short on providers. With this proposal, we have the opportunity to expand the VA’s presence, bring more providers to rural states, and – most importantly – better serve our veterans. I’m eager to see this win-win-win proposal supported by my fellow committee members and brought to the Senate floor.”
“Thousands of Montana and Native American veterans live in rural areas and face additional challenges when they need to access VA care,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Encouraging medical students to serve their residencies in rural areas will help keep more doctors in Montana communities. Payment by the VA for time spent by residents at non-VA facilities will give these young doctors a unique perspective into treating patients in a different setting. I look forward to steering this bill through the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and on to the Senate floor.”
The senators’ bipartisan legislation would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to establish or affiliate with residency programs at facilities operated by Indian tribes, tribal organizations and the Indian Health Service, and would authorize payment by the VA for the costs associated with training and supervision of medical residents and interns at certain non-Department facilities.
Recently, the Serving Our Rural Veterans Act received support from senior VA officials and veterans’ advocates during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.