A Missouri Congresswoman says the VA is struggling to recruit, hire and retain qualified medical professionals.

Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler speaks at Columbia’s Truman VA Hospital on October 18, 2017 (Brian Hauswirth photo)

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, traveled to Columbia’s Truman VA Hospital last week to address the issue.

“And just some statistics, between 2011 and 2015 the demand for VA medical appointments grew by 20 percent across the country,” Hartzler says.

Hartzler says during that same timeframe, physicians, registered nurses, physician assistants and physical therapists left the VA at a rate of seven to eight percent, per year.

Hartzler has filed a VA REHIRE bill, which is aimed at empowering Veterans Hospitals to recruit the best personnel and offer incentives to retain them.

Hartzler’s sprawling Fourth District covers 24 counties in west-central, central and southwest Missouri, including Boone County.

Truman VA is in Hartzler’s district.

The bill would ban hospitals from enforcing non-compete agreements against those who take a job in the VA.

Hartzler says her bill is aimed at addressing the VA hiring shortage.

She says the need for VA medical professionals is near an all-time high, adding that the bill would give veterans the highest quality health care possible.

“And it (the legislation) empowers hospitals like Truman to manage their workforce more efficiently in order to recruit the best personnel, hire them more quickly and offer balanced incentives to retain them,” says Hartzler.

The bill goes to the the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee.

Hartzler tells Missourinet that while she hasn’t had a chance to talk to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, she’s hopeful the bill will pass.

Hartzler says she anticipates that Speaker Ryan will support the bill, saying he is supportive of veterans.