(WASHINGTON)–In response to President Bush’s decision to nominate Dr. James Peake as Veterans Affairs Secretary, the National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC) of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) which represents over 150,000 Veterans Affairs (VA) employees announced the following statement.
“The ensuing changes in the department represent a crucial opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs to reexamine its framework,” said Alma Lee president of AFGE’s NVAC Council 53. “Our members in the VA provide care for more than 5.8 million veterans, it is critical that we take this opportunity to accent our strengths and address the system’s critical failures of chronic budget shortfalls, inadequate resources, and staffing shortages. We believe this is an opportunity for significant change.”
Specifically, the new leadership at the VA must:
- Reestablish Labor-Management Partnerships and utilize historic knowledge of career employees.
- Increase oversight of how funds are dispersed on the local and regional level.
- Mandate nationwide standards for staffing at VA medical facilities so veterans do not need to be turned away or placed on long waiting lists.
- Honor existing rules governing public-private competitions, keeping quality VA health care inside the VA without unnecessary reliance on costly outside contractors.
“While we are encouraged by the FY08 VA budget, the VA leadership must ensure that these new funds are applied to necessary resources and not siphoned off in the form of high-level bonuses or contracted out,” said J. David Cox, AFGE national secretary treasurer and VA nurse for 27 years. “We know the VA is facing unprecedented demand for its services, and that is exactly why the people on the frontlines need the support of their leadership to get them the resources they need to care for all of our wounded warriors.”
Throughout former Secretary Nicholson’s tenure the rank and file employees of the VA actively expressed their concerns over the adequacy of healthcare being provided to veterans. These employees, many of whom are veterans themselves, have been at the forefront of veterans’ healthcare advocacy by leading the fight against privatizing health services and contracting out within the VA system.