The Department of Veterans Affairs currently has nearly 49,000 unfilled positions.
According to new data quietly released by the VA thanks to a push for transparency from our union, the VA has 48,985 vacancies, up nearly 4,000 since the last count in August.
The muted rollout of the data follows VA Secretary Robert Wilkie’s recent announcement of a plan to massively increase the number of veterans sent to for-profit hospitals that would shift funding away from the already short-staffed and underfunded agency.
Filling vacancies to ensure that the VA has enough staff to give proper care to our veterans hasn’t been the VA’s top priority during this administration. Instead, pro-privatization politicians and political appointees are more interested in pushing veterans out the door into private, for-profit hospitals and diverting funding away from the VA into the pockets of rich investors.
“We believe that this push for further privatization cannot be allowed to happen. The VA needs to do a thorough analysis of the huge impact it will have on veterans receiving care here,” said AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma Lee.
Lee, who represents 250,000 workers at the VA, said if the VA truly wants to improve access to care, the agency should increase funding and make fully staffing the VA a priority.
Chronic understaffing and underfunding coupled with politicians’ attacks on pay and employees’ voice at work have driven away VA doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, making it even harder for the VA to recruit medical professionals.
Earlier this month, in a move that would help the VA address these issues and recruit and retain qualified workers, Rep. Mark Takano of California introduced a bill to make it easier for VA Title 38 health care professionals to negotiate for better working conditions. H.R. 1133, VA Employee Fairness Act, already has 27 co-sponsors in the House, and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
“Veterans are provided the best quality and timely care when the VA workforce can thrive,” Rep. Takano said of the reason he introduced the bill. “With more than 40,000 employee vacancies in the VHA alone, it is crucial to ensure that doctors, nurses, and other medical professional are equipped with the best tools to retain and recruit the best talent to serve veterans — this bill will help make that possible.”
“While the administration is setting us up to fail so they can dismantle veterans’ preferred health care provider, there are thankfully allies in Congress who are working to ensure we can hire and retain the medical professionals we so desperately need,” Lee said.