WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today submitted a statement for the record for the House of Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on an independent report conducted to assess the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Representing more than 220,000 employees at the VA, AFGE challenges some findings in the report and recommends key fixes that will address gaps in staffing, service delivery and hiring practices.
As stated in the testimony an important critique of the report is its comparison of VHA providers to those in the private sector. AFGE notes that “a comparison with the private sector must take into account the special needs of almost all VHA patients, not just dentistry. The other major difference between VHA and the private sector is VHA’s focus on the whole patient, and all his or her medical and psychological needs, rather than on the one condition that is initially presented.”
The union goes on to address the issue of panel sizes stating, “official panel size numbers are deceptive; providers regularly see walk-ins, unassigned patients, and patients whose providers are on leave or no longer with the VA. In addition, provider schedules rarely include set-aside time for the hours spent on indirect patient care duties (computer alerts, lab reports, and other tasks), some of which fall to the provider because of lack of support personnel.”
The statement for the record also pointed to important fixes that need to be made in the hiring process, including:
The union’s testimony highlighted that “VHA’s size and unique patient populations are VHA’s greatest advantages; they are the reason why the VA is the best source of veterans’ care in the country and why the VA leads the nation in best practices, research and training.”