AFGE: To Fix The VA, Staff The VA

Thursday, June 19, 2014

AFGE: To Fix The VA, Staff The VA(Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO)

Saying short-staffing led to the widespread problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the union that represents VA's 210,000 workers is launching a new campaign to put pressure on lawmakers to fully staff the VA. The public education drive by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) points out the long wait times for VA treatment – a VA-wide problem, according to a new report – is due to serious shortfalls in staff, medical care professionals and construction. AFGE notes its members have been trying to blow the whistle on the VA's problems for at least a decade, only to suffer retaliation at the hands of agency middle managers who also falsified treatment figures.  But the problem goes beyond phony figures, the union says. The campaign spotlights chronic understaffing, high provider turnover, and other issues that led to delays in care for veterans.  “AFGE and veterans groups worked hard to secure advance funding for the VA, but thanks to Congress and its austerity politics, the VA is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall next year and $500 million in FY 2016,” the union says. “During the past decade alone, funding shortfalls in VA’s medical care and construction budgets are estimated at $15 billion.  If Congress is serious about fixing the VA, here's what they need to do: Fully staff the VA; Protect whistleblowers; Focus on quality, not quantity; Shift resources to front-line providers. “AFGE members are the critical eyes and ears on the ground at VA medical centers,” says union President J. David Cox, himself a retired VA nurse. “Day in and day out, we share with lawmakers and veterans' groups the harsh effects of underfunding that limit the VA.” 


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