AFGE, the largest union representing 283,000 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees, and the Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute (VHPI) are calling on VA leadership and Congress to fully fund staff and expand VA resources after shocking revelations from a new survey of approximately 2,300 VA employees and veterans.
A few examples of the survey results include:
- 60% of survey respondents reported losing key resources needed to serve veterans, especially staff, over the last four years.
- Nearly 90% said their facilities needed more frontline staff.
- 64% said that there are vacant positions for which no recruitment is taking place. A respondent at one facility reported 48 physician vacancies. At another, a staff of 12 full-time outpatient psychiatrists has been whittled down to one.
- 50% reported that beds, units, and programs have been closed due to staffing and budget shortages, even when there is a patient demand for such services.
- More than 20% of respondents who work at the VA say they have partially shifted their work away from direct veteran care towards monitoring and coordinating more expensive private sector care.
“The results of this survey show that the staffing crisis at the VA is hurting our veterans,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “For too long, VA workers have been asked to do more with less. VA leadership must continue to work with its union partners to address this staffing crisis and ensure the VA is equipped to provide the critical, direct services our veterans earned and want.”
According to the VA’s own data, at the end of Q2 there were 64,909 existing vacancies.
“These shocking survey results should be a wake-up call to Washington,” said VHPI President Paul Cox, himself a Vietnam veteran. “Rather than outsource care to the costly, less prompt, and unaccountable private sector, lawmakers must fund more VA positions and properly resource facilities. Only then can they honestly claim to support the nine-million veterans who rely on the VA’s world-class care.”
VA employees are deeply committed to serving veterans. But many were shaken by Secretary McDonough’s recent recommendations to close dozens of facilities. Some are reconsidering their careers at the agency, which could worsen understaffing issues at the VA.