Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) announced Wednesday the introduction of theVA Fairness in Hiring Act (HR 4037), new legislation that will address the Veterans Affairs hiring shortage. Hartzler made the announcement at a press conference at the Truman VA Hospital in Columbia where she emphasized the importance of taking care of our veterans and cutting government inefficiencies.
“Our veterans need us to look out for them, and I’m happy to announce new legislation that makes sure our government runs efficiently and that veterans receive the care they deserve,” Hartzler said. “This bill enables VA hospitals to compete with private practice medical centers for the best doctors and medical staff, heightening veterans’ quality of care and easing the VA’s current personnel shortage.”
The need for medical professionals in the VA is near an all-time high, but the VA continues to face challenges with recruitment and retention of medical personnel. The VA Fairness in Hiring Act provides relief to the VA by exempting certain medical professionals seeking VA employment from non-compete agreements they may be subject to in a private practice.
“Our veterans deserve the best and most stable health care we can provide,” Hartzler added. “This bill provides VA hospitals potential relief to recruit and retain the medical personnel required to provide that care. It also allows medical providers to answer the call to serve their nation by providing health care to our veterans.”
Currently, the VA cannot require its employees to enter into non-compete agreements like private practice. Because of this, private practice is able to entice potential employees away from the VA. Once private practice hires these medical professionals, many times, they must sign non-compete agreements, preventing the VA from even attempting to recruit medical professionals from private practice. Traditionally, non-compete agreements aim to prevent an employee from leaving a well-established practice and creating their own practice, thereby drawing clients away from the original practice. Doing so has a negative financial impact on the well-established practice; therefore, hospitals and clinics use non-compete agreements for protection. In the case of the VA and private practice, they are not competing for patients, because the VA serves only those that qualify for VA care. Therefore, the underlying premise behind the non-compete does not apply.
This bill also prevents physicians from using this exemption as a loophole to get out of their private practice non-compete agreements. For instance, if a physician leaves private practice to work for the VA and then leaves the VA prior to the expiration of the original non-compete, that non-compete will still be valid and enforceable.