September 3, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Washington, DC – President Obama’s announcement detailing efforts to improve health care access for veterans and their family members is a beginning step in the process of addressing the need for improved healthcare services at the nations veterans hospitals. The culture of inefficiency and mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs must end.
The President's August 26th announcement detailed 19 executive actions being taken to improve outreach to veterans and their families is an important first step. Much of the President's plan is in response to revelations that VA managers and supervisors manipulated wait time statistics to hide an embarrassing scandal. Veterans in VA facilities throughout the country were not being treated in a timely manner.
“By hiring additional frontline providers and support staff and strengthening protections for employees who blow the whistle on wrongdoing, the Obama administration is on the right path toward fulfilling the promise that this country made to our service members and the federal employees who care for them,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.
The VA has launched a recruiting campaign to fill critical personnel shortages in health care at the agency. Additional doctors and nurses have been hired in most facilities. The VA is providing training for 10,000 schedulers to ensure veterans and their family members are taken off waitlists and seen by medical professionals as soon as possible. In addition, the agency has reaffirmed its commitment to protecting employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse.
“The executive actions and other steps being taken by the VA are moving us in the right direction, but it’s going to take time before employees trust that they can speak out without risking their jobs,” AFGE National VA Council President Alma L. Lee said. “We have seen too many instances where the VA retaliated against frontline employees, who only have the best interests of our veterans at heart. Until the VA starts taking these complains and concerns seriously, nothing will change.”
*** The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government