President Biden reads S. 894, “Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021,” during a bill signing ceremony in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on Tuesday.

President Biden reads S. 894, “Hire Veteran Health Heroes Act of 2021,” during a bill signing ceremony in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on Tuesday. Evan Vucci / AP

Biden Signs Measure To Boost VA's Recruitment of Departing Service Members

New law will help VA fill shortages in its health care workforce, president says.

President Biden on Tuesday signed into law a measure directing the Veterans Affairs Department to work more directly with the Defense Department to recruit health care personnel leaving the military, hoping to shore up longstanding staffing shortages. 

The 2021 Hire Veterans Health Heroes Act (S. 894) would require VA and Defense to launch a program that identifies all personnel working in health care fields for the military with less than one year of service left to gauge their interest in continuing public service. Those who express such an interest would be assigned a VA recruiter, though they would not be guaranteed a job. There are about 200,000 uniformed service members working in health care, about 13,000 of whom separate from the military per year. 

“We can do more to help the separated service members with backgrounds in health care continue their work in health care for the federal government in places like the VA,” Biden said while signing the bill, adding it would “create a pipeline” to help address shortages at the department. 

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., who introduced the bipartisan measure, said the law would help VA address problems with veteran care. 

“This bill will empower the VA to proactively recruit active duty medical personnel who are separating from the military at the conclusion of their contract or at retirement to improve health care services for veterans,” Braun said. “We owe it to our brave veterans who deserve the absolute best services available.”

VA will report back to Congress one and two years from now to update lawmakers on progress in implementing the law. Biden suggested the military personnel were uniquely positioned to serve at VA. 

“They understand the health challenges our women and men in uniform face,” Biden said. 

As of March, VA maintained nearly 33,000 vacancies. The department has attributed the bulk of those openings to regular turnover and has touted the progress it made in boosting its rolls with emergency funding it received as part of the COVID-19 relief packages. The new law amends one President Trump signed into law in 2017 that gave VA far greater discretion to bypass normal hiring restrictions.

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