Veterans

May 9, 2012

Lawmakers question VA’s plans to hire more staff

by Kevin Freking
Associated Press

Members of Congress expressed doubts May 8 on plans by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ to hire 1,900 additional workers to improve access to mental health care.

Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House committee with jurisdiction over veterans’ issues, said the VA’s plans to beef up staffing looked like a knee-jerk reaction to a critical inspector general’s investigation that was in the works.

That investigation released two weeks ago found that nearly half of the veterans seeking mental health care for the first time waited about 50 days before getting a full evaluation. The VA had been reporting that the vast majority of evaluations were being conducted within 14 days.

Miller said the investigation also showed that the VA did not have reliable data to measure staffing needs.

“If VA doesn’t even have a complete picture of the problem, how confident can we be that access will be increased and care enhanced by the VA’s knee-jerk reaction,” Miller said during an oversight hearing. “This is not the first time we have been here.”

VA officials insisted that the plans to hire more workers had been in the works for months. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said that the department’s hiring proposal was based mostly upon an increase in patients that has occurred in recent years, in part, because the department had made it easier for veterans to submit disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder.

VA officials said that while they agreed with the inspector general’s recommendations, they did not necessarily agree that only half of the veterans seeking mental health care were seen within the recommended 14 days. Nevertheless, Shinseki said that improving access to mental health care would be his highest priority.

“Our efforts will not cease with the announcement of the 1,900 additional personnel,” Shinseki said. “Future adjustments may be likely.”

Miller pointed out the VA already has 1,500 job openings. He said he did not think anybody on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs actually believed the department would be able to fill those openings quickly.

“How in the world are you going to accomplish that in a timely fashion in order to provide mental health care to the veterans who need it today?” Miller said.

VA officials said it will get most of the additional hiring completed in the next six months, but added that some specialties are difficult to fill and that hiring may carry over to early 2013. Officials said they would particularly enhance the salary of psychiatrists in hopes of hiring about 60 more in the coming months.

“We’re beginning to hone in on this most difficult recruiting challenge,” Shinseki said.

Officials also told lawmakers that they were beginning an advertising campaign focused on recruiting mental health professionals. They also have nearly two dozen recruiters in place who will be reaching out to health care workers.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 28, 2014

News: U.S. has lost track of weapons given to Afghanistan - The United States supplied almost three quarter of a million weapons to Afghanistan’s army and police since 2004, but the military cannot track where many of those arms have gone, a new report found. Bill to improve VA has $17 billion price tag - A bipartisan...
 
 

News Briefs July 28, 2014

Marines seek authorization for dolphin deaths The Marine Corps is asking for a five-year authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service for incidental deaths of bottlenose dolphins during training exercises at a bombing and target range. The Sun Journal of New Bern, N.C., reports that Connie Barclay of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says...
 
 
Army photograph by David Vergun

Senior leaders explain Army’s drawdown plan

Army photograph by David Vergun No commander is happy when notified that a soldier from his or her command has been identified for early separation. But commanders personally notify those Soldiers and ensure participation in th...
 

 

Northrop Grumman awarded mission support services contract

The U.S. Army awarded Northrop Grumman a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, with a potential value of $205 million, to continue providing mission logistics services in support of combat brigades training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. The contract covers one base year and two one-year options. Support will include the full range of mission...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Beth Groom

F-35 Rollout Marks U.S.-Australia Partnership Milestone

Lockheed Martin photograph by Beth Groom Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown delivers his remarks at the roll out ceremony for Australia’s first F-35. The official rollout of the first two F-35 Lightning II...
 
 
NASA/JPL-Caltech image

NASA’s Mars spacecraft maneuvers to prepare for close comet flyby

NASA/JPL-Caltech image This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 m...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>