CGS signed-on to two higher education letters to the 117th Congress this week. In a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the higher education community expressed support for an amendment to the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (Prevent Pandemics Act). This amendment, which is known as the Temporary Reciprocity to Ensure Access to Treatment Act (TREAT Act), would establish a temporary license reciprocity for all practitioners or professionals (those who treat both physical and mental health conditions) in all states for in-person or telehealth visits during a declared national health emergency. The letter says, “Even as the use of telehealth and tele-mental health rose dramatically during the COVID-19 crisis, the patchwork of state and local licensing laws that restrict the provision of care across state lines via telehealth technology remains a significant barrier to timely access to vital physical and behavioral health care.” Please see the Committee’s press release for more information about the TREAT Act and the Prevent Pandemics Act.
In the second letter to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, CGS and 15 other higher education associations expressed our concern about the Department of Veterans Affairs recent 85-15 policy reset and specifically, changes in the requirements for a 35 percent exemption. As stated in the letter, “Under the 85-15 rule, when the number of students receiving VA assistance makes up less than 35 percent of the total campus population, institutions are eligible for the 35 percent exemption, which makes them exempt from computing and reporting 85-15 ratios to the VA. Most of our institutions have student veteran populations that are less, and sometimes significantly less, than 35 percent of the total student populations. As part of the 85-15 reset, in October 2020 and again in October 2021, VA rescinded all 35 percent exemptions currently in effect and required institutions to reapply for the exemption. However, as part the new application, VA now requires campuses to provide 85-15 ratios for every program at the institution and to resubmit these calculations every two years. We have heard from many campuses and senior veterans’ program administrators who are confused by the VA’s new requirements, which appear directly at odds with both the regulations and legislative intent.”
The letter concludes by saying, “We understand that this week, VA plans to announce that it will be extending the deadline for applying for the 35 percent exemption until July 1. Over the next several months, VA will be reviewing its guidance for consistency and providing additional clarifications and training materials. Also, VA will work to improve the functionality of their current PDF application form to make it less cumbersome and will permit institutions to submit 85-15 ratios using an institutionally generated Excel spreadsheet. While we appreciate the VA’s efforts to address some of our concerns, we continue to believe that the reset exceeds VA’s statutory authority.”