Led by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and supported by veterans, caregivers and citizens nationwide, Veterans Deserve Care is a national campaign to raise awareness of the need to strengthen health care for our nation’s heroes by ensuring that veterans have direct access to nurse practitioner care within the VA health system. On May 25, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a proposed rule granting veterans direct access to care delivered by advanced practice registered nurses, including nurse practitioners (NPs). AANP and Veterans Deserve Care support swift enactment of the rule. The campaign will include national television and radio spots, digital media, and grassroots efforts to raise awareness for the unprecedented opportunity to improve health care access for our nation’s veterans.
“As an NP, I have spent my career providing primary care to military and their families. Too many of our nation’s heroes are needlessly waiting for care in our VA system,” said Dr. Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, president of AANP. “The VA, AANP, and Veterans Deserve Care agree: It’s time to make care directly and more readily accessible to our nation’s veterans and to honor them with the high-quality health care they deserve,” added David Hebert, CEO, AANP.
“We applaud the VA for taking this important action in support of veterans’ health which will immediately improve veterans’ access to care,” said Major General Vincent Boles, U.S. Army (retired).
According to the VA, more than 505,000 veterans are wait-listed for 30 days and nearly 300,000 are waiting between 31 and 60 days for health care services. The proposal is an effort to modernize the VA system and adopt a 21st century approach to health care delivery.
“Our campaign, ‘Veterans Deserve Care,’ brings together the voices of veterans, caregivers, community organizations, and nurse practitioners,” said Hebert. “We urge Americans to take action to support the VA’s proposal by visiting VeteransDeserveCare.org to submit their public comments before the official comment deadline, July 25, 2016.”
4,800 NPs work across the VA providing clinical assessments, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, making diagnoses, and initiating and managing treatment plans, including prescribing medications. 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. In the last year alone NPs provided more than 800 million patient care visits. NPs hold graduate degrees, national certification, and have years of academic and clinical education.
“We bring a 50-year track record of service to patients, including those in our nation’s military and veterans,” said Cooke. “The proposed rule is zero risk at zero cost to ensure that our veterans have zero delay to access needed, timely care in the VA system. After all, one veteran left waiting for care is one veteran too many,” Cooke concluded.
The VA’s proposal recognizes the results of decades of research confirming the outstanding patient outcomes NPs deliver. This large and ever growing body of evidence has led the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), AARP, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others to recommend providing patients direct access to APRNs. In addition, the proposal is supported by organizations from the Military Officers Association of America to the Air Force Sergeants Association.
The VA’s proposed rule will be open for public comment until July 25, 2016. To date, it has received more than 40,000 comments–the most in VA history.