COVID-19 Emergency Funding, GI Benefits Protection, Federal Student Loan Interest Waived



March 23, 2020

What You Need to Know


AACOM Recommits to Addressing Physician Shortage


As our nation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, osteopathic physicians are being called upon to deliver the care they were trained to provide. In times such as these, we are reminded of the importance of a robust health care system, one that stands ready to respond to challenges, and that patients can rely on with confidence. AACOM is closely monitoring federal agency efforts to combat the pandemic, and applauds the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for working with Congress to protect GI Bill recipients’ benefits amid the transition to online-only education. We are also calling on our advocates to in support of long-term funding reauthorization for essential health programs set to expire this May, including the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program. Addressing health care shortages in rural and underserved areas remains a priority for AACOM. When every community is preparing to meet increasing health demands, this goal becomes even more critical. AACOM will continue to lead the osteopathic medical education (OME) community as it educates and trains those who are on the front lines working to keep communities healthy and safe, and we are committed to ensuring the federal government is doing all it can to support you and your patients.


AACOM COVID-19 Response and Resources

  • AACOM and the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation jointly recommend the nation’s osteopathic medical schools support a of medical student participation in any activities that involve patient contact.
  • AACOM issues perspective letter on the in addressing COVID-19.
  • AACOM continuously updates its to share information and raise awareness of prevention and preparedness efforts.

On The Hill

President Signs Second Coronavirus Aid Package


Recently, President Trump signed into law a multibillion dollar emergency package to help those suffering from the economic impacts of the coronavirus. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), estimated at $104 billion, is the second of several stimulus packages Congress plans to pass to reduce the financial consequences from the coronavirus outbreak. The bill follows the $8.3 billion signed into law on March 6 and includes paid sick leave, free diagnostic testing, and expanded food aid.


A third economic stimulus bill, estimated at $1.8 trillion, was introduced over the weekend by Senate Republicans and reflects a list of potential policy options proposed by the White House. The legislation would include direct payments to Americans, a small-business lending program, deferred payroll taxes paid by employers, grants and loans to “severely distressed” industries, and new funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the VA, and other agencies. Senate Republicans failed to gain the votes needed to move the bill forward Sunday night, forcing the Senate to hold another procedural vote this afternoon. After negotiations broke down over the weekend, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that House Democrats would introduce their own package.

President Signs Bill to Protect GI Bill Recipients


Last week, the President signed into law legislation that would allow student veterans to continue receiving GI Bill benefits and housing allowances if their colleges or universities close or shift to providing online education during the coronavirus pandemic. S. 3503, which passed both congressional chambers, was introduced by Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Ranking Member Jon Tester (D-MT). The law provides the VA with the discretion between now and December 21 to continue paying full benefits even if a program goes online. A companion bill, H.R. 6194, was introduced by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Phil Roe (R-TN). AACOM worked with congressional leadership and other stakeholders to ensure passage of this legislation.

Democrats Introduce Bill to Support Students and Schools Amid Pandemic


House and Senate Democrats proposed a bill last week aiming to deliver $3 billion in emergency coronavirus funding to schools and early childhood programs. The Supporting Students in Response to Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6275/S. 3489), introduced by House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), would deliver $1.2 billion in funding to provide emergency student financial aid to pay for basic needs created by unexpected college closures and COVID-19 related disruptions. In addition, it would provide $1.2 billion in state grants to help school districts and institutions of higher education reopen more quickly. Colleges of osteopathic medicine, among other institutions, would be eligible for these emergency preparedness grants to help cover costs of sanitization and emergency staffing needs. AACOM continues to work with Congress to advance legislation that supports the OME community in its response to COVID-19.




Urge Congress to Address Health Care Shortages during COVID-19 Pandemic


Physician shortages, especially in rural and medically underserved communities, put a strain on patient health and health professionals every day. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our system will face unprecedented pressure, putting the lives of physicians and patients at risk. We are as members of the OME community to urge Congress to enact long-term funding reauthorization for essential health programs set to expire this May, including the highly successful THCGME Program, which has a proven track record of improving primary care access in rural and underserved areas. At a time when our country faces extraordinary health care needs and challenges as we respond to COVID-19, your support is critical.

Observe National Doctors’ Day with ED to MED


Even under normal circumstances, it is important to consistently recognize the contributions that current and future physicians make to the health of individuals and communities. This year, during a global pandemic, our society’s reliance upon the great sacrifices and efforts of our health care professionals is brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness. The osteopathic community stands out for its commitment to improving health care access in rural and underserved areas. At a time when all communities are bracing to feel the strain of the physician shortage, ED to MED is honoring the current and future doctors whom we all rely on to keep our families and ourselves healthy and safe. Join us in showing your appreciation for these outstanding individuals on March 30 for .



Administration and Federal Agencies

Update on COVID-19 Federal Efforts; AACOM Recommends Two-Week Suspension of Student Participation in Clinical Activities


On March 13, President Trump officially , enabling the federal government to unlock funding, bypass certain regulations to address the crisis, and activate the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Less than a week later, the President invoked the Defense Production Act, to manufacture supplies, such as personal protective equipment for health care professionals necessary to combat COVID-19. The Administration is calling on the public to do their part in the , which urges individuals to stay home if sick, avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, and refrain from domestic travel.


Given these executive actions, federal agencies continue to evaluate and update policies and regulations to give front-line health professionals and impacted entities authority to proactively and flexibly respond to the crisis. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a number of blanket waivers and to help increase patients’ access to care during this nationwide public health emergency. The National Institutes of Health announced that effective today, it is and shifting them to a minimal maintenance phase in an effort to mitigate risk to researchers and reduce transmission of COVID-19.


In addition to guidance regarding how institutions should comply with the Higher Education Act Title IV policies for interruptions of study related to COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Education will set interest rates for all federally held student loans to zero for at least 60 days, effective March 13. Additionally, by requesting an administrative forbearance on their federal student loans for 60 days, beginning on March 13. Importantly, borrowers must contact their loan servicer directly to have this option applied to their account. This action, among others underway to address the economic impact of the virus, will help ease financial burden for over 42 million Americans.


AACOM will continue to support our member institutions as they evaluate COVID-19’s impact on their operations and make decisions in the best interest of their students, faculty, and the patients they serve. AACOM will keep our members informed of important federal guidance and policies pertaining to COVID-19 and spearhead efforts in the medical education community to to help ensure the OME community has the tools and resources needed to respond to the crisis.

VA Amends Health Professional Scholarship Program Regulations


On March 6, the VA published a final rule to update regulations governing the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP), which provides active duty service members who are prospective medical and other health professions students with full tuition and a monthly stipend to support their education. The amended regulation to medical students to help reduce the VA staffing shortage. Additionally, for each school year a student receives the HPSP scholarship, they will now be required to serve 18 months of obligated service as a VA physician. The final rule, which is authorized by the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018, is effective April 6.

Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement

Participate in CDC COCA Call on COVID-19: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity (COCA) is hosting a call on March 24 at 2:00 PM ET – 3:00 PM ET to discuss the latest information about individuals who are at higher risk for COVID-19 because of their age or an underlying medical condition. As a COCA partner organization, AACOM encourages its members to to help them stay informed of the latest emergency preparedness and response information. .

Reminder to Osteopathic Clinicians: Apply for NHSC Loan Repayment Programs:

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP), Substance Use Disorder Workforce LRP, and Rural Community LRP are accepting applications through April 23 for the fiscal year 2020 cycle. Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these programs seek clinicians who want to serve in Health Professional Shortage Areas. The NHSC will award up to $100,000 in loan repayment in exchange for providing patient care in these underserved communities. .

Reminder: HRSA Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Applications Due April 24: The HRSA Office of Rural Health Policy will provide $1 million to recipients to strengthen and expand substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services in high-risk rural communities. Proposals must align with the HHS’ . Review the program guidelines and .

NIH Rural Health Interest Group Hosts April Webinar: Join Tom Morris, MPA, HRSA Associate Administrator for Rural Health Policy, on April 6 at 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM ET for a on health research opportunities in rural communities. .

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