Bera, Meadows introduce Doctors Helping Heroes act to address wait time at VA | Congressman Ami Bera

Bera, Meadows introduce Doctors Helping Heroes act to address wait time at VA

Jun 24, 2014
Press Release

Today, Rep. Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-7) and Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11) introduced The Doctors Helping Heroes Act, bipartisan legislation to help shorten wait times at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the country by dealing with the serious shortage of doctors that they’re facing. The bill would allow foreign doctors trained in the U.S. to get visas to practice at VA hospitals where they are sorely needed.

“Our veterans, and their families have sacrificed so much for our country, and they deserve our unwavering support,” said Bera. “As a doctor myself, I’m proud to have worked with my fellow No Labels’ Problem Solver Mark Meadows on this common sense measure to help address the shortage of doctors available to care for our vets. This is one of many steps we need to take to make sure our heroes get the health care they deserve.”

“As Americans, we pride ourselves in being able to attract the best and the brightest to our great nation. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that talented doctors are able to serve in the areas that they are needed most,” Rep. Meadows (R-NC) said.  “We currently have a shortage of doctors in this country—especially in rural communities’ VA hospitals. Along with helping rural communities in Western North Carolina, this legislation will give more of our brave veterans access to quality care from talented doctors,” Meadows added.

Recent audits have found that about 10 percent of all veterans are waiting 30 days or more for an appointment at VA facilities, and experts agree that one of the primary factors contributing to long wait times at VA facilities is the lack of enough physicians to care for aging veterans from the Vietnam War and younger ones who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year Bera and Meadows introduced the Conrad State 30 and Physicians Access Act to  allow international doctors to remain in the U.S. longer than their visas initially permitted if they agree to practice in underserved areas of the country that are in dire need of more doctors.

Under current law, most international physicians who are trained in the U.S. on J-1 visas must return to their home country for two years after their residency ends before they can apply for a new visa or a green card.  But under the Conrad 30 program, these doctors can stay in the country without returning home if they agree to practice in an underserved area for three years.

The “30” refers to the number of doctors allowed per state to participate in the program.  Bera and Medows’ latest legislation would increase the number of visas allowed per state for doctors to practice at VA hospitals.

Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. represents Sacramento County. Born and raised in California, Bera is a physician and the only Indian American currently serving in Congress. He’s fighting to rebuild an economy that works for middle class families and to reduce our country’s debt in a responsible way. One of Bera’s first acts in Congress was to help lead the effort to pass the No Budget No Pay Act, which says if members of Congress don’t pass a budget, they don’t get paid. As a leader of the No Labels' Problem Solvers, he’s working with people from both parties to find bipartisan solutions to our nation’s challenges. He and his wife Janine live in Elk Grove with their daughter Sydra. For more updates on Rep. Bera follow @RepBera on Twitter, like Congressman Bera on Facebook, or visit https://www.bera.house.gov.