The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGP) has called attention to a major staffing crisis at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which the union says is creating risks to patient safety, but the data used to support this epidemic is wrong and out of date.
In a rally that took place at the VA Central California health care system on Tuesday, AFGE called for immediate filling of more than 49,000 VA vacancies across the U.S.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve access to the highest quality care,” AFGE said in a press release announcing the event. “But with more than 49,000 vacancies nationwide at the VA, they are being deprived of the health care they’ve earned and prefer. Current staffing levels are creating risks to patient safety and a hazardous work environment to the working people at the VA.”
AFGE’s local president, Jacob Dunn, said the Veterans Choice Act is partly responsible for pulling doctors away from the VA and to the private sector.
AFGE has held similar rallies all across the country, relying on the same data to make its argument. One of the more recent rallies took place in Salt Lake City on Monday. Approximately a dozen workers in blue shirts held up signs reading: “VA vacancies go up. Vet care goes down.”
It turns out the figure of more than 49,000 vacancies isn’t at all accurate. Rather, as of Sept. 29, 2017, the VA had only 35,345 full-time equivalent vacancies. Moreover, vacancies at the Veterans Health Administration in particular only number at 9 percent, less than half the vacancy rate of private sector hospitals. At private sector hospitals, the vacancy rate is closer to 20 percent.
When asked about the use of incorrect data, AFGE stated, “The figures AFGE uses come from the Secretary who first said 45,000 in January and upped that to 49,000 in May. We’d like to see transparency around the numbers, how they’ve been filled – if they have at all, and how they plan on filling whatever is left.”
“We all know that one vacancy is too many, and 35,000 and 49,000 are both a disgrace,” the statement continued.
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