AFGE says staffing shortage at core of VA woes

While allegations of secret waiting lists implicate senior management at Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, one union claims understaffing is at the heart of the problem of long wait times.

The American Federation of Government Employees said that "understaffing and inadequate funding of frontline services" were the main causes of veterans' long wait times for appointments.

"The agency made promises and set standards that, in many locations, may have been impossible to fulfill, given the inadequate allocation of resources to frontline caregivers," AFGE said in a press release. "In such an environment, instances of wait list gaming become almost inevitable."

The union said its members at the department report there are not enough providers and support personnel to provide timely access care at most Veterans Health Administration medical facilities. In an environment characterized by such shortages, AFGE said the department's performance standards "provide strong financial incentives for managers to hide underlying staffing and resource problems by 'scrubbing wait lists.'"

“When we look deeper into this issue of extended wait times for veterans to receive an appointment, we have to recognize that understaffing is a major culprit,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. “All around the country, medical facilities are understaffed, with numerous frontline care positions going unfilled."

AFGE maintains Congress has not gone far enough in providing funding, and that an independent VA budget developed each year by top veterans service organizations indicates that the VA budget will fall $2 billion short of its actual needs in fiscal 2015.

“Understaffing has a strong, negative impact on employees’ ability to do their jobs,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. “Our medical professionals are dealing with excessive caseloads and insufficient support staff. This is the reason why there are problems scheduling patient appointments."

The union also said VA is driving up costs by using more contractors rather than hiring needed frontline employees.

Reader comments

Fri, May 23, 2014

The lawmakers never have a shortage of money when it comes to funding war, but can't find their checkbook when the war torn vet needs help.

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