Veterans Administration Cutting Services to Those Who Served

March 22nd, 2024 - by Eric Katz / Government Executive & Buzz Davis / Veterans For Peace

VA to Shed 10,000 Employees at
Underutilized Facilities in FY25
Eric Katz / Government Executive

WASHINGTON (March 19, 2024) — The Veterans Affairs Department plans to shed 10,000 employees next fiscal year, though it does not anticipate using any separation incentives and still aims to hire in some areas.

Instead, VA will lean on natural attrition to meet the workforce reduction target, which officials said would still allow the agency to meet all of its operational objectives. Most of the reductions would come from the Veterans Health Administration, though its chief said hiring would largely continue for physicians, nurses, medical support assistants and other support staff. Instead, Shereef Elnahal, VA’s undersecretary for health, said the targeted attrition would focus on supervisory and administrative roles.

The Veterans Benefits Administration is also anticipating a 4% reduction to its workforce, according to President Biden’s fiscal 2025 budget.

The plan marks a significant reversal from the long-term trend at VA. The department has for years grown its workforce and has added 72,000 employees since 2019. It made significant leaps in fiscal 2023, when VHA added a whopping 61,000 employees and grew its workforce by 7%, and the start of fiscal 2024, but will now only add staff in targeted areas.

The reversal comes as VA is in the midst of surging the number of veterans seeking health care and benefits from the department as it continues to implement the PACT Act, a law that newly makes eligible for department services former military members at risk of toxic exposure.

At some facilities, VA has already paused hiring or revoked offers.

“We are managing this by attrition,” Elnahal told reporters this week. “We’re not under a hiring freeze, but nonetheless facilities are making strategic decisions about whether to fill positions when they vacate.”

He added VHA loses about 9% of its workforce annually, or about 38,000 employees based on its current workforce. That would mean his agency would fill about three of every four vacancies next fiscal year. He stressed that the rate would not be spread evenly across the department.

“This will not be an equal picture, medical center to medical center,” Elnahal said. “It would all depend on veteran care demand and veteran needs. So as a trend, we should see medical centers over areas where veterans aren’t growing, or even declining in population, potentially attriting more than others.”

Job losses would be focused on positions that operate in support of direct clinical staff. The undersecretary said the agency’s headquarters will allow regional leadership to make specific decisions on hiring needs.

The PACT Act gave VA access to new pay bumps and recruiting and retention incentives, which Elnahal noted led to VA’s turnover rate in fiscal 2023 being 20% lower than the previous year. Still, he expressed optimism that attrition alone would be sufficient for VHA to meet its staffing reduction goals.

“We think we can get there through attrition,” Elnahal said.

VA to Cut Services to Veterans Who Served
Buzz Davis / Veterans For Peace

TUCSON (March 20, 2024) — All the wars (so many going on that both Trump and Biden cannot remember them all (nor can I).  But the vets since 2001 are the most damaged men and women the VA has ever seen.  Why? Because with battlefield protection, near-immediate medical care and excellent care in field hospitals behind the lines instead of being dead, soldiers are living.  Secondly, the chemicals and radiation from 50 years ago are killing the old vets, plus, the tough generals ordered burn pits 24/7 knowing the dangers of the poisons therein.  Now they find that artillery groups are suffering brain damage from the shock waves of rockets.

Welcome to the new world of men and women in the military being treated like Kleenex — use once and discard.

Now congressman Mark Takano (D-CA) and other reps. and senators have belatedly passed the PACT Act, which makes millions of more vets eligible for VA care.

In the meantime, Obama, Trump and now Biden have continued the privatization of the VA.  Start in 2010 for the old Koch brothers and the right-wing think tanks.  They and their buddies invested hundreds of millions in think tanks spewing lies about the VA.

Today, possibly 40% or more of the vets who come to a VA clinic are sent to the private sector for, in general, lower-quality care, much higher tax-payer costs, and slower service for the vet with less preventative care and worse life expectancies.

And vets vote Republican for presidents and even more for Republican in Congressional races.

Vets shoot themselves and taxpayers in the foot.  While the right-wing libertarian billionaires laugh on the way to the bank — holding hands with the private sector healthcare CEO’s.  After which they have lunch and toast the stupidity of the American political system.

Thanks to my AFGE union friends in Madison, Wisconsin, who work at a VA site that is one of the top healthcare facilities in the nation.  All citizens should be getting healthcare like nearly all vets served by this VA get.

Our citizens do not get such healthcare.  Why?

Buzz Davis, Veterans for Peace in Tucson, is a former organizer and leader of the Save Our VA national vet action group.