MOAA’s work to ensure strong congressional oversight of reforms to the military health system received a boost thanks to a Senate committee report attached to the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – a report directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look at multiple staffing topics and potential challenges.
The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) report comes amid concerns about military treatment facility (MTF) staffing levels; MOAA is concerned staffing challenges at MTFs are behind the sustained uptick in complaints about appointment shortages and other barriers to access at military hospitals and clinics, although the electronic health record implementation (MHS Genesis) and lingering COVID-19 related health care workforce challenges may also be contributing factors.
MHS reforms, passed into law with the FY2017 NDAA, include consolidating all military hospitals and clinics under the authority, direction, and control of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), resulting in reports of staffing challenges at MTFs as the services retain control of some uniformed medical providers while DHA must staff all MTFs positions.
“The transition has presented some challenges with respect to balancing the military departments’ assignment of military medical personnel for the provision of care at MTFs with assigning such personnel outside of MTFs to meet their medical and operational readiness missions,” the SASC report states. “The committee is concerned that given these newly created competing priorities for military medical staffing, there is a potential for issues to arise that might strain staffing or require additional coordination.”
The committee report directs the comptroller general (head of the GAO) to look into:
- Policies and procedures for assigning active duty medical personnel to MTFs
- Staffing trends at MTFs relative to authorized positions
- Factors that affect the availability of military medical personnel to deliver care at MTFs.
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The SASC report also requires a DoD briefing to the Armed Services Committees addressing not only military personnel staffing of MTFs, but also DHA’s management structure to ensure unity of effort in the operation of MTFs.
Since the FY 2017 NDAA became law, MOAA has advocated for robust congressional oversight of MHS reforms. We appreciate Congress has responded to our concerns about beneficiary access to care with four consecutive halts to medical billet cuts, including a five-year hold on the initiative in the FY 23 NDAA.
Protecting the military health care benefit remains a top priority for MOAA, and we look forward to leveraging the GAO report on MTF staffing in our future advocacy efforts.
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