The Frontlines for Lifelines Act, a bill that would ensure better access to care for United States veterans by granting the more than 4,000 nurse practitioners who practice in the Veterans Health Administration full-practice authority, was introduced to the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The bill, S 297, was introduced by Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois). The bill would also grant full-practice authority to certified registered nurse anesthetists practicing in the Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities.

For 50 years, nurse practitioners who have been allowed to practice to the full scope of their education have been providing vital health services that independent researchers overwhelmingly deem safe and high-quality, with outcomes that are equivalent to those of physicians. Their ability to practice to the full scope of their preparation streamlines care delivery and alleviates delays, an urgent necessity at VA facilities.

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“The current policy of limiting nurse practitioner practice in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) impairs veterans’ access to care, risks lengthening delays in health care delivery, increases health care costs, and fails to promote patient safety,” said AANP President Elect Cindy Cooke, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP, who spent twelve years providing primary care services to active duty and retired military personnel and their families at the Fox Army Health Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Today, 21 states and the District of Columbia grant nurse practitioners full-practice authority, and a growing number of organizations and government bodies has called for others to follow suit. Supporters include the Institute of Medicine, AARP, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Josiah Macey Foundation, the National Governors Association and the Federal Trade Commission.

The number of nurse practitioners licensed in the United States has nearly doubled over the past ten years, rising from approximately 106,000 in 2004 to 205,000 in 2014. The vast majority are primary care providers with 88% prepared in primary care and more than 75% currently practicing in primary care settings.

In addition to diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses, nurse practitioners emphasize health promotion and disease prevention in the care of their patients.

“We urge Congress to advance this bill – a zero-cost, zero-delay, zero-risk solution that will immediately bring improvements in care to the brave men and women who have served their country,” said Cooke in an association press release.