VA vacancies at 49,000, union members rally

BATH, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - Union members rallied in front of the Bath VA on Thursday as part of a national effort to highlight staffing levels that they say are creating risks to patient safety.

The group says 49,000* vacancies exist, meaning 49,000 positions need to be filled at VA's nationwide in order to be fully staffed. 

A vacancy is when someone retires, resigns, or transfers and the position doesn't get filled.

With the short-staffed establishments, the group says veterans are being deprived of the critical services they deserve and prefer over private insurance companies. 

Richard Howard, the president of AFGE Local 491, works at the VA and is a veteran himself. 

"How do we properly care for our veterans?" Howard said. "They talk about timely care. They're setting us up for failure and it's not against the local leadership at this VA. They're very good, but their hands are tied. They're tied by Congress and the administration."

Howard says their union is down over 50 employees from this time last year and that 30 percent of their workforce consists of veterans. 

As a matter of perspective, the 49,000 vacancies at the Bath VA represent about six percent of its workforce. Private sector hospitals tend to run vacancy rates anywhere from 15 to 20 percent.

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*UPDATE 12/26/17: 18 News originally reported that 49,000 vacancies exist according to the union, but the Bath VA claims there are 35,000 vacancies. 


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