Spending Bill Fixes Paperwork Barriers to VA Research – ATS Advocacy Win
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President in December, provided $916 million for the Veterans Affairs Medical and Prosthetic Research program in FY 2023, a $34 million (3.9 percent) increase above the FY 2022 funding level. In addition to providing a funding increase, the bill also addresses several VA bureaucratic policies that have recently become significant barriers to conducting research in the VA. The law now allows VA investigators to receive outside research support without violating existing federal conflict of interest policies and waive additional review of surveys used for research purposes.

For decades, the VA had allowed its researchers to accept a wide range of outside research funding support to conduct studies. However, the VA legal department recently issued a changed interpretation of federal policy that says receiving outside funding support is a violation of existing conflict of interest policies for federal employees. While the new application of federal conflict of interest policies for VA research had not yet been enforced on existing grants, it was starting to become a barrier for investigators who wanted new outside grant funding. The law clarifies existing conflict of interest policy to allow VA researchers to continue to accept outside grant funding.

The bill also clarified policy on federal surveys. Under current policy any federal survey that is expected to be administered to over 300 people – including surveys for VA research purposes – must be reviewed and approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB review was taking up to 24 months, severely delaying VA research efforts that relied on survey instruments. The law clarifies existing policy to allow VA research surveys, which have been reviewed and approved by IRBs, to waive further outside review by OMB.

The ATS Washington Office, as part of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research Coalition, played a pivotal role in drafting legislation on both these issues and working with allies in Congress to enact both these important research provisions as part of the omnibus spending bill.
Last Reviewed: January 2023