The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) was not surprised by the recent admission by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of a $1 billion shortfall. In its advocacy on behalf of veterans and the workers that care for them, AFGE has worked to shed light on the fact that the VA is severely under funded and our veterans who were promised quality healthcare after serving their time in the military are suffering as a result.
“The chronic under funding of the VA isn’t a new problem,” says AFGE National President John Gage. “Budget cuts and the resulting staffing shortages have plagued the VA for quite some time. As result of these cuts, veterans must endure long waits for appointments, equipment rigged for purposes other than its original intent and surgeries cancelled for budgetary reasons. Earlier this year Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) urged lawmakers to give the VA an extra $2 billion but her efforts were unsuccessful. However, despite the dire situation at the VA, the Bush Administration continues to turn away low-earning vets and forbids VA personnel from promoting its health care services to veterans not yet enrolled in the system.”
“In addition to budget cuts, the VA is taking money from its own health care services and using it to take jobs from loyal VA workers and handing them over to private contractors. In determining whether specific functions or jobs can be contracted out, the VA conducts cost-comparison studies. However, as the law stands right now, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the entity that operates the VA medical system, is prohibited from using its funds for conducting cost-comparison studies. Even though these illegal cost comparison studies can costs millions of dollars, dollars that would be better spent properly funding the VA medical system, the VA won’t let a little thing like a federal law get in its way,” continued Gage.
“To add insult to injury, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs is actually considering helping the VA further drain its shallow pool of resources by taking up legislation that will earmark funding for cost-comparison studies,” says Alma Lee, president, AFGE National VA Council. “If this happens, the already weakened VA medical system will be crippled at a time when an influx of new veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will desperately need the high-quality mental and physical health care the VA usually provides.”
“This is no way to treat the men and women who have pledged to protect and serve our country. Our veterans deserve better and our government can do better by our veterans,” Lee added.