VA Employees Demand Immediate Filling of 49,000 Vacancies at VA Hospitals Nationwide

Employees at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals have been staging a protest during the past few weeks to demand that the 49,000 vacancies be filled immediately to ensure our veterans receive the care that they have earned.

Find Out How to Plan a Staff the VA Rally at Your Local

At the Denver VA Medical Center on Aug. 23, for example, employees, veterans, and concerned individuals gathered in front of the hospital to shine a spotlight on the staffing crisis. There are nearly 600 vacant positions in the Denver hospital, from clinical staff such as doctors and nurses to administrative and support positions — leaving employees overworked and veterans with longer wait times to get treatment.

"Our employees are becoming very frustrated," said Bernard Humbles, president of AFGE Local 2241. "I've had some that just say 'I'm done,' and leave because of the overwhelming workload. We need to fill these positions.”

Indeed, the Denver VA hospital got 800 new employees last year, but 600 of them have already left because of understaffing and low pay compared to private hospitals.

The same scenario has played out at VA hospitals nationwide. So far, rallies have been taking place at:

  • Little Rock VA Hospital, Arkansas

  • Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, Illinois

  • Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, Illinois

  • Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center, New Mexico

  • Mountain Home VA Medical Center, Tennessee

  • VA Medical Center-Fort Harrison, Montana

  • Cincinnati VA Hospital, Ohio

  • Richard A. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indiana

  • Denver Veterans Medical Center, Colorado

The protests attracted significant local media attention such as this, this , and this and have resulted in two bills being introduced in Congress to fully staff the VA – S. 1723 introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and HR. 3459 introduced by Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland.

A National Disgrace

By VA Secretary David Shulkin’s own admission, there are 49,000 positions that need to be filled for the VA to be fully staffed. Before the VA employees took to the streets, Congress has done little to address the crisis that faces the VA.

AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. calls this failure a national disgrace.

“Veterans around the country are being forced to wait longer for care,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “Working people at the VA are struggling to do their jobs while staffing shortages are at near dangerous levels. And Congress is busy self-congratulating themselves for making it easier to fire civil servants at the VA – one-third of whom are veterans themselves.”

The administration and Congress’ slow response to filling the vacancies is also seen as an attempt to break the VA system to make way for more privatization.

Private hospitals are not only more expensive but are also not as good as VA hospitals. And veterans know it. In a recent poll conducted by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), 92 percent of veterans said they want the VA to invest in fixing their deficiencies – not a universal health care card or privatization.

“Veterans didn’t serve our country overseas just to come back to wait in line for substandard care at private facilities,” Cox added. “The best solution for our nation’s veterans is to fully staff every VA facility nationwide.”

AFGE is urging Congress to pass S. 1723, which would allocate $5 billion to hire more medical professionals and narrow the staffing deficit at the VA, and HR. 3459, which would put new transparency requirements in place by requiring the VA to post on its website the total number of filled positions, the total number of vacancies by occupation, the total number of people who have entered and exited the workforce in the last month, and the total number of active job posting within the department. The Brown bill would also require the VA to submit a report to Congress detailing the progress they are making in hiring new employees as well as providing Congress with an explanation of the steps they are taking to achieve full staffing.

More protests are expected at the following facilities in September:

  • Minneapolis VA Health Care System

  • Kansas City VA Medical Center

  • John Cochran VA St. Louis Health Care System

  • VA Morehead City Clinic, NC

  • Atlanta VA Medical Center

  • Phoenix VA Health Care System

  • Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

  • El Paso VA Health Care System

  • Jesse Brown VA Hospital, Chicago, Il

  • Philadelphia VA Medical Center

  • Iron Mountain VA Hospital, MI

  • Fayetteville VA Hospital, AR

  • Bowling VA Hospital, AZ

  • Congresswoman McSally's Office, Tucson, AZ

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