AFGE has long said that the Department of Veterans Affairs is top heavy and that the department needs more frontline workers in order to better serve veterans. This week’s announcement by VA Secretary Bob McDonald to reorganize the VA into five regions is a step in the right direction as it will reduce the department’s bloated middle management and shift resources to focus on providing more care to more veterans.
Under McDonald’s plan, all VA administrations – the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) – and other internal offices will be realigned into five regions. Currently, VHA has 152 medical centers within 23 regional health care systems, known as Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). VBA has four regions. NCA has five regions and a central office. Other offices such as information technology and public affairs are located across the country. Each part of the department has until June 30 to rework its new structure. The plan is part of a large-scale effort the secretary announced late last year to provide better health care for veterans.
“We are very encouraged by this and other steps to improve access to and coordination of services to our vets, many of whom have complex needs,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr., who served as a registered nurse at the VA for more than two decades.
Photo: AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee (pictured, center, with the AFGE Nurses Steering Committee), said that Secretary McDonalds statement is moving the agency in the right direction.
“We look forward to further discussions about addressing our longstanding concerns about too few frontline staff and top heavy management in VISNs,” said Alma Lee, president of AFGE’s National VA Council. “Secretary McDonald has promised us an open door, so we know we will be playing an active role in rolling this out.”
Employees also need not worry, VA officials said, as cutting jobs is not part of the reorganization plan.
“This [realignment] is not about losing jobs,” Bob Snyder, executive director of the MyVA program management office, told reporters. “There’s more than enough work to do across the VA that we need everybody we’ve got, and then some. Depending on what analysis you look at, we’ve got significant shortages in many of our specialties. This is not about cutting jobs.”