(WASHINGTON)- The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), called on the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors to seek input from employee representatives in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD).
“If there is going to be a serious investigation into the failures of our military and veterans healthcare facilities it is critical that those who know the problems the best are represented on the investigative commission. Employees of the nation’s military and veterans’ healthcare facilities have been noting for years the shortcomings at their facilities,” said John Gage, AFGE national president
President Bush established a Commission to investigate the level of care being provided to injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commission, which is headed by Sen. Dole, R-Kan. and Donna Shalala, former health secretary under President Clinton, will investigate military and veterans hospitals to identify the system’s failures in its treatment of returning veterans. The White House released the names of seven additional members of the Commission including two veterans wounded in Iraq, the wife of an injured Army Staff Sergeant, and the Chairman and CEO of a not-for-profit that constructs “comfort homes” for hospitalized military personnel. Ominously missing from the list were personnel or personnel representatives from VA or DoD healthcare facilities.
The rank and file employees of VA and DoD medical facilities, which are represented by AFGE, have actively expressed their concerns in the adequacy of healthcare being provided to veterans and military personnel. These employees, many of whom are veterans themselves, have witnessed first hand how budget shortfalls, staffing shortages, and outsourcing have adversely affected patient care.
AFGE has been at the forefront in veterans’ healthcare advocacy, by leading the fight for assured funding and against privatizing military and veterans’ health services. Despite the challenges of working under chronic budget shortfalls and financial uncertainty federal employees have proven through comparative studies that they can operate more effectively than private contractors.
“It has been the position of this Administration that tasks delivered by non-medical personnel be contracted out, despite their exceedingly high cost and overly reported benefit. Instead of looking for ways to line the pockets of outside contractors, this Congress should invest in its dedicated, committed federal staff,” Gage added.