Former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters that, if elected president, he plans to fill the vacancies at the Department of Veterans Affairs and increase wages for employees to be competitive with the private sector. The VA now has more than 50,000 vacancies, up from 49,000 last year.
Biden told Stars and Stripes that the VA’s biggest challenge is filling tens of thousands of job vacancies. If elected president, he would increase the VA’s budget and boost employees’ pay.
Here’s an excerpt:
“We can’t compete economically,” Biden told Stars and Stripes in a telephone interview, saying it is difficult for the VA to recruit health care workers when they can earn more money elsewhere. “The VA shortage is the canary in the coal mine of the whole medical system.”
Biden also said even though some private care is still needed in rural areas, investing in the VA system will be a priority because the VA is better equipped to take care of veterans’ special needs.
“I do not under any circumstance support moving to total privatization,” Biden said. “There are unique problems the military encounters as a consequence of war and pressure. Everything from orthopedics to prostheses to mental health issues.”
Biden’s position is in sharp contrast with that of the Trump administration, which has pushed to outsource care for veterans as much as possible and has refused to fill the vacancies and invest in VA facilities. Even though AFGE has consistently raised the issue on behalf of our members, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has told Congress that filling the vacancies just isn’t a priority for the Trump administration.
Employees want to do their jobs
AFGE applauds Biden for supporting the work VA employees do serving our veterans.
“We are very encouraged by Vice President Biden’s plan to address chronic short staffing at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vacancies at the VA keep climbing. It is unacceptable and a disservice to our nation’s veterans that the VA health care system currently has over 50,000 vacancies,” AFGE President Everett Kelley said.
“AFGE is proud to represent dedicated VA employees in every critical position at VA medical centers and we stand ready to work with the Biden Administration to ensure that physicians, nurses, and all front- line VA health care employees - including the housekeepers who keep patient rooms and ICUs germ free and police officers who deescalate dangerous situations-- earn adequate wages to bring this world-class veteran-centric health care system to full staffing levels,” he added.
The vast majority of front-line VA health care employees who risked their lives to care for veterans during the pandemic received no pandemic pay from the VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and were denied adequate personal protective equipment.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with a new VA Secretary who values every VA employee and is committed to strengthening the VA health care system rather than dismantling it through privatization and intentional staffing shortages,” Kelley said.