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.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jensen Stidham

World War II pilot reunited with P-47

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jensen Stidham Retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel, laughs while under the wing of a P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course Feb. 2...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash

Vietnam War veterans honored during ceremony at AF Memorial

Air Force photograph by Scott M. Ash Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III delivers his remarks during a wreath laying ceremony March 2, 2015, honoring Air Force Vietnam prisoners of war and missing in action at the A...
 
 
Air Force photograph

AF holds 50th anniversary Vietnam War commemoration ceremony

Air Force photograph F-105 crews played a key role in Operation Rolling Thunder. During this three-year Vietnam War campaign, Air Force, Marine and Navy aircraft bombed targets throughout North Vietnam. U.S. and Australian wars...
 

 

Airmen missing from WWII accounted for

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Feb. 23, that the remains of U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been accounted for and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Army Air Forces 1st Lts. William D. Bernier of Augusta, Mont.; Bryant E. Poulsen of Salt Lake...
 
 

President signs Clay Hunt Act, says ‘Stigma has to end’

President Barack Obama Feb. 12 signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, or SAV Act. The act is aimed at reducing military and veteran suicides and improving their access to quality mental health care. Hunt was a decorated Marine veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress. He deployed to Iraq and...
 
 

Survivor of USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor attack dies at 100

YUBA CITY, Calif. – The oldest living crew member of the battleship USS Arizona to have survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has died in Northern California at the age of 100. Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell died Feb. 4 at a nursing home in Yuba City, according to his son, Ted Langdell....
 




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>