As Veterans Affairs Continues To Struggle, 1 In 3 Important Jobs Remain Unfilled At VA Hospitals

Jinger Jarrett

Veterans Affairs continues to struggle as one in three important positions related to patient care at nine of the VA regional healthcare systems remain unfulfilled. This includes critical intake workers, doctors, nurses, and assistants. According to USA Today, critics of the VA cited the reasons for the shortage as complex hiring procedures and poor recruitment of new employees.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Congress recently moved to make it easier to fire bad employees, and about 1,500 employees have been removed so far. Congress also proposed several radical strategies in order to improve the care of veterans and help them to get the critical care they need much faster. Senator John McCain of Arizona even proposed allowing veterans the option of private care as a way to ease the burden on the VA Healthcare system.

Because of the critical shortages in personnel at Veterans Affairs facilities, appointment wait times have increased. As little as a 1 percent increase in job vacancies caused increased waiting times of at least a month.

The highest vacancies are for staff psychologists. Thirteen Veterans Affairs regional healthcare systems reported that between 40 and 64 percent of all staff psychologist positions are open.

Representative Dan Benishek, a Republican from Michigan and surgeon who worked part time as a contractor for Veterans Affairs for 20 years, said hiring needed to be streamlined and accountability needed to be improved.

"Frankly, it's a management problem. Over the past 30 years, the VA Inspector General's office has repeatedly said the agency should have a national recruitment plan to attract and retain physicians. It still doesn't exist. When you have to recruit 41,000 people — there has to be a coordinated plan. And when you ask them, there's nobody in charge. You hear 'that's not my job.' No one's held responsible."

11 Alive News reported that Veterans Affairs referred 1.5 million veterans to private care last year, at a cost of $7.7 billion for taxpayers. In spite of the problems, some veterans at the Atlanta facility did say they saw a few improvements. Rich Sisteli of Disabled American Veterans said the facility director Leslie Wiggins was working to turn the situation around.

"VA hospital Director Leslie Wiggins has turned this place around. Over the past two years there is a new attitude. Once a month she has a town hall meeting at the hospital. This is a big deal."

Although no one at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Atlanta was willing to make a statement, the facility did release a statement saying that if veterans were unable to get the care they needed within 30 days, it did make them eligible for the Choice program. The Choice Program is designed to pay for private care for veterans provided they meet certain criteria.

What do you think is the answer to solving the problems at Veterans Affairs facilities?

[Photo Credit Scott Olson/Getty Images]