We can do more

When it comes to our veterans, we can do more. Our nation can and should honor America’s heroes by fulfilling our promise to provide them timely access to the health care they have earned and deserve through their service to our country. The well-documented challenges plaguing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in recent years have revealed heartbreaking stories of long wait times for veterans in need of health care. Let’s stand together and urge the VA to immediately enact a proposed policy to dramatically decrease wait times and provide faster access to health care for our veterans.

Currently, over 530,000 veterans must wait 30 days or more for an appointment and 43,000 are waiting more than 120 days for care. The impact of these delays on veterans’ health is well-known and documented, especially for older veterans. A study dating back to 2007 by Prentice and Pfizer found that older veterans who waited 31 days or longer for an appointment suffered significantly higher mortality rates compared to those visiting VA facilities with shorter wait times. And at approximately 30 days, geriatric veterans were more likely to require hospitalization.

Today, more than 222,000 licensed nurse practitioners are transforming the delivery of health care across our nation. Of the nearly 7,000 nurse practitioners practicing in settings specifically designed for active and retired military, some 4,800 are employed by the VA and represent an immediate solution to the urgent challenge of veteran health care delays. Yet bureaucratic red tape stands between veterans and the high-quality care these nurse practitioners can provide.

The VA should move quickly to implement a new directive that would grant veterans direct access to APRNs – including Nurse Practitioners – at VA facilities across the country. In fact, 21 states and the District of Columbia already offer patients this same opportunity. Now, it’s time to bring this access to our nation’s veterans.

The VA’s proposal recognizes the results of decades of research that demonstrate nurse practitioners’ outstanding patient outcomes including increased access, a less frequent need for hospitalization and readmissions as well as, more patient engagement. The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the IOM) agrees with those findings, and recommend states and institutions adopt this zero cost solution to ensure that patients have access to needed, timely care.

As we turn the page on what has been a tumultuous political season, this is a rare and unique opportunity to show unity. All Americans, regardless of party – citizens and elected officials alike – can surely agree and lead the way by calling on the VA to issue and implement a final rule that grants veterans direct access to nurse practitioner care in the VA and the high-quality health care they deserve.

Dr. Cindy Cooke

President, American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Submitted by Virtual Newsroom