Union: Give VA more money to end scandal

 

The Veterans Affairs healthcare scandal can be solved by giving the department more money, a top federal employees union said Thursday.

American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox said that the VA needs $2 billion more next year and at least $500 million in 2016 to be adequately staffed.

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“The wait list and understaffing issues are one and the same. Until Congress gives the VA the resources to hire enough frontline clinicians to meet demand, our veterans will continue to face long waits,” Cox said in a blog post for the Huffington Post.

President Obama’s administration has been rocked by allegations that VA staffers hid long delays for veterans seeking healthcare by creating secret wait lists. One report said 40 veterans died after being shunted to a fake Phoenix list.

The president on Wednesday vowed to get to the bottom of the scandal, but many in Congress are calling on him to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki now.

The House passed a bill this week to give the VA secretary more power to fire top departmental officials by circumventing the civil service process, and the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the legislation as an amendment to the department’s funding bill for 2015.

The Senate bill includes $65.1 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, $1.895 billion above the 2014 level. 

The union said Thursday that the total amount of money needs to be higher and Congress needs to direct the VA to spend more money on lower level workers rather than executives.

Paralyzed Veterans of America expert Carl Blake said that the Senate allocation is still $2 billion below the level the VA needs.

"We do not believe the VHA has near the capacity it needs to meet the demands being placed on the health care system, and it will take an infusion of additional resources to be able to address this problem," he said. 

This story was updated at 4:24 p.m.