From ANA Government Affairs...
Final Congressional Action:
House, Senate Pass Nurse Reinvestment Act; VA Nurse Bill Cleared for President's Signature
In the final hours of the congressional session, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed versions of the Nurse Reinvestment Act (HR 3487 and S 1864). Both bills provide authority for scholarships and loan repayments for nursing students, and public service announcements to promote nursing as a career. The Senate bill also contains authority for stipends and other supports for nursing students, grants to promote the Magnet criteria for best practices for nursing administration, funding for faculty development, career ladder programs, and funding for residencies for nursing specialties. These two bills will be conferenced in 2002. ANA will work to educate members of Congress about the importance of maintaining the many additional provisions contained in the Senate version.
Also on Dec. 20, the Senate cleared the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Programs Enhancement Act (HR 3447) for the President's signature. ANA strongly supports this bill, which addresses many of the staffing-related concerns of Veterans Affairs (VA) nurses. The President is expected to sign the bill at the beginning of next year. Once enacted, this legislation will:
*Modify and makes permanent the VA Employee Incentive Scholarship Program and Debt Reduction Program;
*Provide Saturday premium pay to title 5/title 38 hybrids;
*Require a report on VA's use of authority to request waivers of the pay reduction for re-employed annuitants;
*Give VA nurses enrolled in the Federal Employee Retirement System the same ability to use unused sick leave as part of the retirement year calculation as VA nurses enrolled in the Civilian Retirement System have.
*Require an evaluation of nurse-managed clinics, including primary care and geriatric clinics;
*Require the VA to develop a nationwide policy on staffing standards to ensure that veterans are provided with safe and high quality care. Such staffing standards would consider the numbers and skill mix required of staff in specific medical settings (such as critical care and long-term care);
*Require a report on the use of mandatory overtime by licensed nursing staff and nursing assistants in each facility;
*Exempt registered nurses, physician assistants, and expanded-function dental auxiliaries from the requirement that part-time service performed prior to April 7, 1986, be prorated when calculating retirement annuities;
*Require a report on VA's nurse qualification standards; and
*Make clarifications to the nurse locality pay authorities in order to allow surveys to include salaries other than beginning salaries.