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Womack Introduces Bill to Address VA Medical Center Leadership Vacancies, Support Veteran Care

Washington, DC – January 31, 2023….Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) today introduced the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Absence and Notification Timeline (VACANT) Act to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers have the senior leadership they need to provide the oversight and accountability veterans deserve. The legislation requires the VA Secretary to ensure a plan is in place to fill vacant medical center director positions within 180 days of detailing. The measure is the House companion to Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) bill and is in direct response to the Fayetteville VA Medical Center’s experience of being without a permanent medical director for nearly two years.

Congressman Womack said, “Our veterans deserve the highest standard of care. Timely hiring and proper staffing of high-quality professionals should be the standard—not the goal. This bill brings necessary accountability to workforce recruitment. Just as a battalion commander leads a unit, the VA needs leadership in place to ensure health services are being properly delivered to those who’ve worn America’s uniform.”

Senator Boozman said, “The VACANT Act will ensure reliable and dependable leadership is in place at the top level of VA medical centers to deliver the quality patient care veterans earned. I’m pleased to team up with Congressman Womack to champion this initiative and I urge our colleagues to pass this legislation critical to fulfilling our responsibility to those who have served our country.”

The VACANT Act requires the VA:

  • Notify the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees within 90 days of a medical center director vacancy due to VA internal detail.
  • Appoint an Acting Director no less than 120 days after detailing a medical center director.
  • Fill an open director position through the return of the detailed director or a new hire process within 180 days.

Leading this legislation is Womack’s latest step to support our nation’s veterans. He has continually backed programs that increase VA transparency, encourage veteran employment, aid in suicide prevention, enhance healthcare options, and help with the transition back into civilian life. Following previous challenges at the Fayetteville VAMC, he testified before the House Veterans Affairs’ Committee on this situation, called for examinations of VA procedures, worked with VA leadership to reform the reinstatement process, and led a letter to ensure a former pathologist convicted of wrongdoing would not qualify to receive any retirement benefits. He also helped pass the PACT Act, legislation signed into law that delivers toxic-exposed veterans their earned care and benefits, which also included several provisions to bolster VA’s workforce, especially in rural areas.

Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) has represented Arkansas’s Third Congressional District since 2011. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.