Update June 6: President Donald J. Trump signed the VA MISSION Act into law in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Watch on C-SPAN.
Original Item Published May 23: APMA is celebrating a major legislative victory after the Senate passed S 2372, the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, or MISSION Act. The legislation provides comprehensive reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health-care system and includes language from APMA’s VA Provider Equity Act. The bill passed the House last week and will now go to President Donald J. Trump, who is expected to sign it immediately.
The VA Provider Equity Act reclassifies podiatrists as podiatric surgeons within the VA Health Administration (VHA), placing them in the same pay band as their allopathic and osteopathic peers. This update to decades-old regulations will go far in addressing the dire recruitment and retention issues in the VHA and ensure our veterans receive the best possible foot and ankle care.
“APMA is ecstatic that Congress has taken action to stem the growing podiatry staffing crisis at the VA while properly recognizing podiatrists for their training and education,” said APMA President Dennis R. Frisch, DPM. “Most importantly, we can now guarantee our veterans will be taken care of for years to come.”
The passage of this legislation represents the largest advancement for federally employed podiatrists since 1976, and is the first bill specific to podiatry passed by the United States Congress.
The VA Provider Equity Act was introduced by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-OH), in the House and Sen. Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), in the Senate.
“As a doctor, my first priority is the patient,” said Sen. Cassidy. “This breakthrough legislation puts veterans first and ensures they have access to the quality care they deserve.”
“I’m glad we are able to get this legislation across the finish line and finally tackle the disparities between the VA and the private sector," said Rep. Wenstrup. "This [legislation] will increase the VA’s ability to recruit and retain qualified specialists like podiatrists, and ensure that our veterans get the specific care and treatment they deserve.”
Many individuals contributed to this victory, led by APMA Director of Legislative Advocacy and APMAPAC Benjamin J. Wallner. Wallner was in constant contact with the staff of our congressional sponsors and worked tirelessly to create opportunities to move the bill forward. Your APMA Board of Trustees (including recent past presidents), the APMA Legislative Committee, the APMAPAC Board, and APMA staff all contributed countless hours and energy to the passage of this legislation. The Federal Services Component leadership humanized this issue for congressional leaders and provided important support through workforce statistics and persuasive testimony. And APMA would like to recognize all members who have attended a Legislative Conference, contributed to APMAPAC, used eAdvocacy, or through some other means reached out to their elected officials to advocate for podiatry.
“This bill has been a major initiative by APMA on behalf of our profession and our veterans. Your membership in APMA and contributions to APMAPAC allowed us to make the passage of this bill a reality, and I wish to extend my gratitude to everyone who helped us accomplish this effort,” added Dr. Frisch.
The elevation of podiatrists within the VA will bolster APMA efforts to pass the Helping Ensure Life- and Limb-Saving Access to Podiatric Physicians (HELLPP) Act, which seeks to appropriately recognize podiatrists for their care of Medicaid patients. Together, we can use this victory as a springboard to move the profession forward.