June 2, 2014
Washington, DC — American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement in response to the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki.
“AFGE strongly agrees with President Obama’s statements on the need to hire more doctors and nurses to fill the ranks of front-line providers delivering care to our nation’s heroes. It is imperative that the hundreds of physician vacancies be filled immediately. This must include clerks and other support personnel who work hand-in-hand with physicians to ensure that top notch medical care is provided at every VA clinic in a productive and timely manner.
“The prevalence of long wait lists is a symptom of the vast understaffing of VA medical facilities. In order to reduce wait times and improve access to VA care that veterans earned through service to our country, we must fix the number one cause of this crisis: understaffing. There is no solving the wait list issue without first solving the staffing issue.
“As we have noted for years, the VA is in need of a change in culture. Our rank-and-file members have sounded the alarm on poor management practices and inadequate staffing time and time again. Many of the brave employees who have spoken have faced reprisal and threats to their jobs. Now is the time for meaningful steps to be implemented to rid the agency of this culture of fear and rebuild on a foundation of whistleblower safety.
“We look forward to developing a strong relationship with Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves, continue to tackle the complex issues that arise within the agency and develop solutions that work toward delivering the best service to our nation’s veterans. “
***The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government including 205,000 in the Department of Veterans Affairs.