Virginia is home to just short of 900,000 veterans and active duty or reserve military members. These men and women who chose to risk their lives for our country have a right to health care, affordable housing, and higher education as they pursue civilian life in the United States. They, and their families, deserve support pre- and post-deployment. It is our moral obligation– and privilege– to support them and their families as they have supported our nation.
We have one of the fastest growing veteran populations in the country. Our economy has made progress over the last few years, but we can always do more. Virginia was the first state to develop provider agreements between the VA and community health centers to give veterans greater access to healthcare facilities of their choice, in their communities. We’ve also seen legislation to connect returning military medics to private sector healthcare jobs. Given the acute EMT/Paramedic shortage in underserved parts of the state, this is a critical way to help solve that problem.
But not everyone has felt the benefits of that progress, especially amongst veterans look out for us, and we ought to return the favor when they come home— and give them a great reason to stay right here in Virginia. To subvert a phrase, we can't let good be the enemy of great— we've got to make sure that, at every turn, we're advancing policies that support veterans’ access to health care, debt-free higher education, housing, and consumer protection and empowerment to the best of our ability.
Veterans to the Rescue- literally!
If you’re a returning US Army Medic, US Navy Corpsman, or have held another equivalent position in the US Military, we need to make it easier, not harder, for you to find a job helping people in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We need to team up with the Board of Health Professions and learning institutions in the Commonwealth to build programs specifically tailored for returning veterans to turn their already extensive training into a degree to become a medical professional.
And if they go to a medically underserved part of the Commonwealth to practice? Then the Commonwealth needs to pick up the tab. It’s a win for everyone!
Veteran Healthcare Access
2017 saw Virginia become the first state to develop provider agreements between the VA and community health centers to give veterans greater access to healthcare facilities of their choice, in their communities. This outstanding effort needs to continue, particularly in primary care and mental healthcare specialties. A veteran's zip code shouldn't determine their ability to access high-quality care in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This should be accomplished through programs that grant providers in critical access areas incentives to practice in “healthcare deserts” across the Commonwealth, as well as through programs like community paramedicine and an expansion of telemedicine programs.
Military and Veteran Consumer Protection
Disgustingly, military members and veterans remain one of the most vulnerable groups for exploitation at the hands of predatory lenders and other scam artists.
In an effort to curtail predatory lending, Congress passed the Military Lending Act in 2006, a regulation that placed a 36% interest rate cap (known as Military APR) on payday, car title, and refund anticipation loans to active duty, reserve duty, or active guard service members. Virginia should step up and make this even more aggressive. Many predatory lenders altered their strategies to get around the MLA, and we should immediately enact reforms to ensure this cannot, and will not, happen in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Incentives for Critically-Needed Providers
It may shock you to know that there are less than 1600 psychiatrists for the 8.5 million people who live in Virginia; less than 3500 dentists, the average age of whom is over 50 year old. That’s a stunningly low numbers, and if you think those numbers are dire, we probably shouldn’t look at the numbers for everything from primary care providers to volunteer EMTs and firefighters. Veterans feel this shortage acutely; too many come home from serving their country with injuries and conditions suffered in the line of duty- and we need to step up to make sure they’re not let down
Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways we can fix this and make things better for not just Veterans, but ALL Virginians. Things like:
Exempting critically needed medical professionals (like dentists, psychiatrists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, etc) who agree to live and work in “medical deserts” from state income taxes
Tax credits for employers that employ volunteer emergency services personnel, including tax credits for giving paid time off; with special benefits to those (especially small businesses) who do so in “medical deserts” (rural/underserved locales)
Give fiscally-strapped Virginia counties a credit to send county citizen providers (emergency services and healthcare related) to a Virginia school for free training if they’ll agree to work/volunteer for a certain amount of time
Shorten the time required for Nurse Practitioner autonomous practice from the most onerous in the country (currently at 10,000 hours) to standards in-line with those of the US Military and Department of Health and Human Services.
These are all common-sense solutions that have bipartisan support behind them. And there are hundreds of thousands of Virginia veterans waiting desperately for us to do so.