Ret. USAF CMSgt. supporting VA proposal to cut wait times that may reduce quality of care

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Frank, then first sergeant special duty manager for the office of the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, provides opening remarks during the 2012 United States Air Force First Sergeant Leadership Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 11, 2012.
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Frank, then first sergeant special duty manager for the office of the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, provides opening remarks during the 2012 United States Air Force First Sergeant Leadership Conference in Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 11, 2012.


Veterans Deserve Care, a  campaign led by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) with support from the Sergeants Association has submitted nearly 60,000 comments to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs(VA) in support of a proposed rule that would give veterans direct access to nurse practitioners in VA facilities.

“Veterans served on the front lines. They shouldn’t have to wait in line for health care. Let the VA’s nurse practitioners practice to their full potential and serve our veterans,” said CMSgt Robert L. Frank, USAF (ret.), chief executive officer of the Sergeants Association.

According to the VA, 505,000 veterans are wait-listed 30 days and nearly 300,000 are waiting between 31 and 60 days for health services. The proposal is an effort to “modernize the VA system and adopt a 21st century approach to health care delivery and access for veterans,” according to the America Association of Nurse Practitioners.

More than 4,800 NPs work across the VA providing clinical assessments, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, making diagnoses, and initiating treatment plans, including prescribing medications.

Current VA rules require these nurses to be closely supervised by doctors.  The proposed changes would allow these nurses to work independently with less oversight.  Physician groups say the change would give nurses too much authority and put veterans at risk.

Dr. Jeffrey Plagenhoef, the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, said the VA hasn’t properly researched the impact on complicated surgeries.

“Anesthesiology is inherently dangerous, and it becomes even more dangerous as sickness increases,” Plagenhoef said. “Veterans are more likely to have had heart attacks, strokes emphysema, congestive heart failure, and conditions such as those which dramatically increase the likelihood of problems before during and after surgery.“

Dr. Cindy Cooke, president of AANP does not believe there will be an increased risk with the proposed change.

“Americans recognize NPs’ 50-year track record of providing care for our patients, including our nation’s veterans,” said Cooke.

Cooke added, “The VA proposed rule is a zero risk, zero cost, zero delay solution to ensuring that veterans have access to the health care provider of their choice and reduced wait times at the VA.”

Patients in 21 states and the District of Columbia already have direct access to NP care, with outcomes “equivalent to or better than those of physicians,” according to AANP.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and Sergeants Association are the two groups that most strongly support the proposed changes.

The proposed rule was open for public comment until July 25, 2016.  The VA Undersecretary for Health will decide whether the policy change will occur, but a decision isn’t likely for several months.

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