Veterans Need Access to Respiratory Therapists
Ask Congress to help by placing report language in the Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies appropriations bill
Each year, Congress passes appropriations bills that allocate federal spending for each department and agency in the government. In conjunction with these bills, Congress adopts accompanying reports that provide federal agencies with more specific instructions on implementing the programs within their jurisdiction. Submitting report language is an effective way to have Congress weigh in on important issues without passing separate legislation.
This year, AARC is submitting report language to address staffing issues for respiratory therapists at the Veterans Affairs administration. Approximately 25 percent of veterans are impacted by COPD, which makes it critical that respiratory therapists be available to veterans at VA hospitals. Furthermore, last year Congress passed a bill called the PACT Act, which expanded coverage for veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic exposures. The bill included a list of presumptive conditions that make veterans eligible for coverage, which includes respiratory conditions such as COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung disease, and bronchitis. This will further increase the demand for the services of respiratory therapists who can provide education to patients with respiratory conditions on the trigger and symptoms of their disease to prevent acute exacerbations.
Currently, there are gaps in coverage of respiratory therapists in the VA system. However, the VA does not have an effective way of evaluating staffing needs for respiratory therapists within their hospital systems. AARC has validated time standards that measure the work provided by respiratory therapists, which are called the Safe and Effective Staffing Guidelines. These guidelines could be used by the VA to evaluate staffing needs for respiratory therapists.
The report language directs the VA to evaluate the staffing needs for respiratory therapists using a validated data system, such as the Safe and Effective Staffing Guidelines, and to report back to Congress within 180 days on gaps in staffing for respiratory therapists.
We need your help to reach out to your members of Congress in support of including this report language in the report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Please send this action alert to your members of Congress to ensure that veterans with respiratory conditions have appropriate access to respiratory therapists.