(The Center Square) - Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, filed a bill that addresses shortages at the state's Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The Veterans Affairs Medical Center Absence and Notification Timeline Act, known as VACANT, would prevent the VA Secretary from keeping an acting medical director in the role past 180 days without having a plan for a permanent replacement, according to Boozman's office.
VA hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages, according to Boozman, who serves as a senior member of the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee. The VA recently appointed a medical director at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, but the facility has been without one since May 2021, according to Boozman.
"It's clear there is a lack of urgency to fill VA medical center director positions," Boozman said. "We have a responsibility to ensure adequate leadership at medical centers is in place to provide vital oversight and meet the needs of veterans."
VACANT is a provision of the VA Careers Act. The bill would modernize the agency's pay system and expand reimbursement for staff's professional education expenses. If passed, it would keep the VA and Congress better informed on staffing issues by updating workforce data reporting requirements, according to Boozman.
Boozman introduced the bill with Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Montana.
"As chairman, I often hear from veterans in Montana and across the country about the lack of providers in rural communities," Tester said. "We need VA to hire providers faster and be able to retain high-quality talent in rural areas."