Orthopedic Surgeons Support VA Provider Equity Act

July 19 marked an important milestone for the American Podiatric Medical Association‘s VA Provider Equity Act, H.R. 1058, as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) indicated their support for the bill in a letter to its primary sponsor, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-OH).  Dr. Wenstrup, who is board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, is the bill’s primary sponsor.

The VA Provider Equity Act would result in the Veterans Health Administration System recognizing Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPMs) as physicians and make podiatrists equal to their physician peers in terms of pay and eligibility for promotion and leadership positions.

The VA’s current qualifications for podiatrists have not been updated since 1976 and have led to a disparity in recognition and pay when compared to the podiatrists who practice outside of the VA system. This disparity has resulted in difficulty recruiting and retaining podiatrists and a resulted in a lack of podiatric access for veterans who need care.

In the words of the letter of support signed by the presidents of AAOS and AOFAS, the VA Provider Equity Act would “increase access to foot and ankle care for Veterans by improving recruitment and retention within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of highly qualified podiatrists. The amendment accomplishes this by raising salaries for podiatrists and allowing podiatrists access to appropriate leadership positions at the VA. Podiatrists are an essential part of the care team at the VA and work alongside orthopaedic surgeons every day to provide excellent service to veterans.”

The bill was marked up and passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, then passed unanimously in the House on July 24.  This is a successful step forward for VA podiatrists and the veterans who could benefit from increased access to foot and ankle care.

“From lower extremity injuries related to improvised explosive devices to foot and ankle ailments caused by aging, diabetes, or other service-connected disabilities, the veterans seeking care from the VA have uniquely complex medical needs,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup, DPM (R-OH). “I thank my colleagues in the House for the bipartisan passage of this legislation, and I urge the Senate to act swiftly as well, so these reforms can reach our veterans as soon as possible.”

Dr. Hoy spent three years in the VA system during his fourth year of podiatric medical school and residency afterwards at the VA San Francisco.

References: ABFAS, APMA