WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement regarding Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’ legislative action plan to address issues at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers:
“We laud Sen. Sanders’ push to fix the long-standing problems that are at the root of the VA’s current woes. In the last few weeks there has been plenty of rhetoric circulated about our veterans’ health care system, but few meaningful solutions. By providing concrete solutions to the wait list issues and staffing shortages, this plan will ensure that the access to care matches the world-class service our nation’s heroes receive once they enter the VA system.
“AFGE has long called for additional staffing of front-line providers delivering direct patient care. Sanders’ plan emphasizes the need for emergency funding to be provided to hire new doctors, nurses and other providers in order to keep up with the demands on the current system. His proposal to offer scholarships to medical students and college loan forgiveness to doctors and nurses who come to work for the VA is another common-sense solution to help attract and retain much needed medical professionals.
“Sen. Sanders’ call for a commission on VA health care access is a critical piece to ensuring that the implementation of new policies and procedures is done properly and at the highest level of service to our veterans. For years AFGE nurses, doctors, and support staff have been on the forefront of exposing mismanagement of patient care, and we must have a seat at the table to keep the front-line employees’ experiences at the fore. With the voices of Veterans Service Organizations and employee representatives, the commission will be poised to provide effective oversight and essential recommendations.
“This legislative action plan also addresses the need for the proper resources to be allocated in continuing to eliminate the claims backlog. AFGE has testified about the need for additional claims processors for years and the need to fix the Veterans Benefits Administration’s broken resource allocation model. AFGE supports the need for improvements to the claims processing systems to enhance workflow and a scientifically based time motion study on the work credit system, so that production is evaluated accurately and staffing levels are met.
“We urge Congress to pass this legislation swiftly so front-line VA employees get back to doing what they do better than anyone else – care for America’s heroes.”