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Why Hasn’t Congress And Trump Filled The 50,000 Vacant Positions At The VA?

AFGE will be hosting rallies around the country to raise awareness of the dangers posed by short-staffing the VA

WASHINGTON – Veterans around the country are being forced to wait longer for care. Working people at the VA are struggling to do their jobs while staffing shortages are at near dangerous levels. And Congress is busy self-congratulating themselves for making it easier to fire civil servants at the VA – one-third of whom are veterans themselves.

In response to the growing lines and number of open positions at the VA, the American Federation of Government Employees will begin holding rallies around the country – starting Wednesday, August 16 – to raise awareness of the nearly 50,000 open positions at the agency, in the hopes that Congressional leaders will finally address the problem.

“For too long the hard-working men and women who have dedicated their lives work to serving our veterans have been bullied, intimidated, and abused. They have been made villains by insiders in Washington looking to push veterans out the door into ill-equipped, unprepared, private, for-profit medical centers, and it has to stop,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

“These faithful public servants are the ones who first brought to light that management was hiding wait lists. They’re the ones who let us know when facilities are falling behind. And they’re the ones who know best how to treat our veterans. Why can’t Congress give veterans the support they need? Why won’t Congress fill the 49,000 vacancies at the VA?” he asked.

Since January’s hiring freeze was announced, VA Secretary David Shulkin has been discussing the alarming number of vacancies at the VA, and the need to fill them. “We have 45,000 job openings. That’s too many,” Shulkin said in January. “I need to fill every one of those openings in order to make sure that we’re doing the very best for our veterans.” In the following months Shulkin began an upward revision of the openings, and in May announced that there were 49,000 in the entire system – with no plan to fill them in the works.

Instead, Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which made it easier to fire front-line workers for little or no cause at all.

“We cannot allow veterans to be forced to wait for the care they deserve because Congress and the White House won’t take action,” said Cox. “We will be holding rallies in cities across the country to raise the awareness of thousands of open positions that no one seems interested to fill. Veterans want and need the VA, but without it being properly staffed, it’ll be harder and harder to give them the care they deserve,” he added.

Kuster Announces Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Field Hearing in NH

Field hearing will examine issues at Manchester VA Medical Center, challenges to access to care for New Hampshire veterans

(Concord, NH) –Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, announced today that she will convene a field hearing of the Subcommittee in New Hampshire to examine reports of quality of care issues at the Manchester VA Medical Center. Kuster will be joined by the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). The field hearing will examine quality of care issues at Manchester VAMC as well as challenges in access to care for New Hampshire veterans. The whistleblowers who raised the issues of care at Manchester will be invited to testify at the hearing on September 18th. Time and location will be announced closer to the hearing date.

“The issues that have been raised about quality of care at the Manchester VA Medical Center need to be thoroughly examined and that means the VA Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee must hear directly from the whistleblowers,” said Congresswoman Kuster.I’m hopeful that by bringing the Subcommittee to New Hampshire we’ll be able to gain a greater appreciation for what went wrong in Manchester, how we can fix those issues, and how we can prevent this from happening in other areas. Granite State veterans deserve better, and we need to do all we can to ensure that they are able to access the services and care they need.”

“Congresswoman Kuster and I will hear directly from VA whistleblowers in Manchester next month,” said Chairman Bergman. “Our goal is to thoroughly examine the gross mismanagement and improper patient care at the Manchester VA Medical Center so this does not remain a problem for our Veterans. This field hearing will lead to greater accountability in the future within the Manchester VA Medical Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs as a whole.”

Congresswoman Kuster wrote to Chairman Bergman earlier this month to request that the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hold the hearing to examine the concerns raised by the VA whistleblowers. In her letter, Kuster outlined the unique challenges faced by New Hampshire veterans.

“These concerns are especially troubling to me because New Hampshire is the only state, except Alaska and Hawaii, which does not have a full-service medical center,” Kuster wrote. “As the Boston Globe explained, that means New Hampshire must send veterans to private-sector community providers or other VAMCs. Given the realities of veterans’ medical care in a state without a full-service facility, we must examine the Manchester VAMC’s usage of these critical programs.”

Her full letter is available here and below.

Congresswoman Kuster has served on the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee since taking office in 2013, and has served as the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee since 2015. As Ranking Member, she pushes for increased transparency at the VA and helps to lead the charge in Washington on the need to improve access to care for veterans across the country. The daughter of a WWII veteran, Congresswoman Kuster has long advocated for the needs of New Hampshire veterans, and she frequently holds veteran roundtables, forums, and job fairs for Granite State veterans across the district.

170718_LTR_OI field hearing request on Manchester VA

House Passes Six Veterans Bills Cosponsored by Shea-Porter

 WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed six bills to improve veterans’ services cosponsored by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01).

“We owe a great debt to all veterans, and the bills passed today in the House show our continuing bipartisan commitment to honoring that debt,” said Shea-Porter.

Today’s House-passed bills include:

  • H.R. 1329 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2017: Veterans do not receive an annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for their benefits unless Congress specifically passes legislation authorizing an increase. This bill would provide a 2.5% COLA for veterans benefits on December 1, 2017. Shea-Porter is also a cosponsor of H.R. 1328, the American Heroes COLA Act of 2017, which would provide an automatic COLA for veterans benefits each time there is a COLA for Social Security benefits.
  • H.R.1005 – To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the provision of adult day health care services for veterans: This bill would require the VA to contracts withState Veterans Homes to pay for Adult Day Health Care for veterans who are eligible for but not receiving nursing home care. State Veterans Homes are operated by the states, but receive some funding from the VA. Adult Day Health Care is a VA program that allows veterans who need skilled services and help with daily living to go to nursing homes during the day to receive that care instead of being institutionalized in a long-term setting. It allows veterans to choose to stay in their homes and is less costly than long-term nursing home care.
  • H.R. 1725 – Quicker Veterans Benefits Delivery Act of 2017: The bill requires the VA to issue a report to Congress on a program to reduce the necessity for in-person disability examinations. It also asks the VA to issue a report on the use of privately-determined medical evidence instead of VA-provided evidence for the disability evaluations it uses to determine disability ratings.
  • H.R. 1545 – VA Prescription Data Accountability Act of 2017: This legislation requires VA to report data on all opioid prescriptions to states’ prescription drug monitoring programs. Currently, the VA is only transmitting data when prescribing opioids to veteran patients. Approximately 10% of the VA’s patients are non-veterans.
  • H.R. 1162 – No Hero Left Untreated Act: This bill would direct the VA to carry out a one-year pilot program for magnetic electroencephalogram/electrocardiogram-guided resonance therapy (MeRT) technology at up to two medical facilities. The pilot program would examine the effectiveness of using MeRT to treat PTSD, TBI, MST, chronic pain, and substance use disorder.
  • H.R. 2052 – PRIVATE Act: This legislation changes the Uniform Code of Military Justice to prohibit service members from distributing visual images, such as photographs or videos, that depict nudity when the person distributing the images should have known that the images were created under circumstances in which the person in the image would have had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and whose spouse is an Army veteran, has cosponsored more than 30 bipartisan bills to improve services for veterans during the 115th Congress. These include the WINGMAN Act, a bill she co-introduced and the House passed earlier this year to make it easier for certified Congressional caseworkers to assist veterans. In January, Shea-Porter reintroduced the Veterans Health Equity Act, a bill that would remedy New Hampshire’s status as the only state in the nation without a full-service VA hospital or equivalent access. The bill has been cosponsored by every member of the New Hampshire delegation, Republican and Democratic, since Shea-Porter first introduced it in 2008. She has also been a leader in the fight to lift the harmful federal hiring freeze that is damaging the VA’s ability to provide care and limiting employment opportunities for returning veterans.

US House Passes Bill To Arbitrarily Fire Workers At The VA, Bypassing The Union’s Due Process

Yesterday, in a largely party line vote of 237-178, the U.S. House passed, “H.R.1259 – VA Accountability First Act of 2017.” A bill that would allow the Secretary of the VA to arbitrarily fire workers without any due process. HR 1259 was written and sponsored by Tennessee Republican, Rep David Roe (R-TN-1) who also cosponsored legislation to revoke the Department of Labor’s new rule mandating employers keep records on all workplace injuries.

The Hill explains:

The bill would give the VA secretary expedited removal authority, meaning any employee fired by the secretary would be out of a job and off the department’s rolls that day.

…One point of conflict in the legislation was the elimination of the union grievance process available to represented employees as a means to appeal negative personnel actions. About 76 percent of VA’s workforce is represented by a union, and Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and author of the accountability bill, has complained the grievance process takes an average of 350 days to complete. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 230,000 VA employees, called the legislation ‘a union-busting bill, plain and simple.

…A spokeswoman for Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the senator is still “exploring options” for a bill that can pass the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has introduced companion legislation for Roe’s House-backed measure. Isakson himself said he is committed to working with his House colleagues and Democrats on his committee to move accountability legislation forward.

“I’m committed to moving legislation that gives Secretary Shulkin the tools to discipline bad employees,” Isakson said. “Accountability reform is a top priority.” The senator authored bipartisan legislation in the last Congress to expedite the firing process at VA, but it stalled in the Senate after clearing his committee.

This bill is designed to bypass the American Federation of Government Employees grievance procedures and weaken the union’s ability to represent workers.  David Cox Sr., National President of AFGE released the following after the bill passed the House.

“The House has passed a venomous piece of legislation from Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee that would undermine the government’s sacred obligation to serve our veterans by gutting frontline employees’ basic worker rights at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Make no mistake – this legislation is not about improving accountability at the VA, and it certainly won’t improve veterans’ access to quality care and earned benefits. This is part of an orchestrated attack on the rights of federal workers and employee unions that’s ripped from the playbook of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“While we are deterred by the House’s action, we are not defeated. We will fight this bill when it goes before the Senate, and we will continue to make the case to lawmakers and the public that attacking the rights of working-class men and women at the VA and across government is counterproductive to our shared goal of providing the best service to the American taxpayers.”

The AFl-CIO was also displeased with the passage of this legislation calling it a “slap in the face” to the workers at the VA.

“Yesterday, instead of standing up for working families, 10 Democrats in Congress joined with Republicans in attacking workers at the VA. Their support of this anti-worker legislation is not only a slap in the face to the 120,000 VA employees who are themselves veterans, but a betrayal of the promise to treat all VA workers fairly,” said Bill Samuel, AFL-CIO Director of Government Affairs. 

Everyone agrees that the VA needs help.  They are understaffed, overloaded, and underfunded, but the ability to arbitrarily fire hard working people at the VA will do nothing to solve any of these problems.

The reforms Congress should be looking for would include ones like the amendment submitted by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

Congress must also accept that additional resources are necessary to hire more doctors and nurses at VA health centers and to reduce the delays many veterans face in getting the care they need.  This would include spending money to merge the DOD’s and the VA health records system.

Another major issue facing the VA is that 20 veterans commit suicide every day.  Many of these vets are suffering from PTSD and are unable to get the care they need. NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH-1), a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, is working with the newly appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin, to address this ongoing epidemic.

“The men and women who have served our nation in uniform cannot be cast aside once they have returned home,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The suicide rate among veterans is a tragedy and it’s long past time we came together to address this challenge.”

“The president and I have made it clear that suicide prevention is one of our top priorities,” Secretary Shulkin said in a statement. “We know the rate of death by suicide among Veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than Veterans who use VA care. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. We must and we will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one Veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.”

So while 20 veterans a day commit suicide and the thousands that die every year awaiting care should be the top priority of the President and Congress, but instead they are choosing to attack the very workers who are trying to help fix this broken system and get care to those who desperately need it.

Shea-Porter Gets Amendment To Improve Hiring At The VA, Passed In US House

American Legion-Endorsed Shea-Porter Amendment Earns Bipartisan Support 

WASHINGTON, DC— Everyone agrees the VA needs help.  Healthcare professionals at the VA are swamped. There is a shortage of qualified health professionals and this is leading to the VA’s failure to care for those who need it.

The VA’s current shortage of mental health providers causes unacceptable wait-times for veterans who need care for mental health conditions, including substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and military sexual trauma.  More than 20% of veterans suffering from PTSD also suffer from substance use disorder, and 25% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed signs of substance use disorder.  Between 2010 and 2015, the number of veterans suffering from opioid use disorder increased by 55%.

Yesterday, the U.S. House passed an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01) to improve VA hiring of mental health professionals.

“The VA faces a critical shortage of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, and peer support specialists. These providers care for our veterans with behavioral health needs that include post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and substance use disorder. Too many of our veterans must wait to receive the mental health care we have promised to them, and some never receive needed care at all,” Shea-Porter said while offering the amendment on the House floor. “In my home state of New Hampshire, we are fighting a fentanyl, heroin and prescription opioid crisis that is disproportionately affecting the veteran community. Increasing mental health provider capacity will allow more of these veterans to enter treatment and, ultimately, recovery.”

Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health, rose to speak in support of Shea-Porter’s amendment, saying: “It’s critical that VA closely track to mental health vacancies on an ongoing basis so they can be prioritized and filled to prevent any disruptions in care to our most vulnerable veterans. I’m fully supportive of this amendment and grateful to Representative Shea-Porter for submitting it.” 

The American Legion said: “The American Legion thanks Congresswoman Shea-Porter for her amendment, which will improve veterans’ access to critical mental health services, allowing the VA to better serve those who have sacrificed for our nation.”

Shea-Porter’s amendment passed as part of H.R. 1367, a bill to improve the VA’s ability to hire and retain health providers, which would create a database to help match qualified applicants to critical open positions at the VA, facilitating faster hiring. Because of Shea-Porter’s amendment, that database will list open mental health positions if the bill becomes law, improving the VA’s ability to hire needed mental health professionals.

A former military spouse, Shea-Porter understands the challenges facing our military families and veterans. This Congress, she has cosponsored 18 bipartisan bills to improve services for veterans, including the WINGMAN Act, legislation she co-introduced and the House passed earlier this year to make it easier for certified Congressional caseworkers to assist veterans. She has been a leader in the fight to lift the harmful federal hiring freeze that is damaging the VA’s ability to provide care and limiting employment opportunities for returning veterans.

“Our veterans deserve to be treated by professionals who fully understand the veteran experience and veteran-specific mental health conditions. That is why it is so important for veterans to have the option to receive specialized mental health from VA mental health professionals who have the training that will allow them to build trust,” said Shea-Porter on the floor of the House yesterday“There is an urgent need to address this problem. Every day, 20 veterans commit suicide. MST. Opioid. PTSD. These are all crises we need to address. The time to act is now. Please vote yes on this amendment.”

AFGE Says VA Accountability Act ‘Does Nothing to Improve the VA’

AFGE slams new legislation in House and Senate for diminishing veteran care and silencing veteran advocates at the VA

WASHINGTON – New legislation introduced in the House and Senate this week has been met with fierce opposition by the union that represents 230,000 VA employees. The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 – H.R. 1259 introduced by Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee – and the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2017 – S. 493 introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida – pits VA officials and managers against frontline employees at the nation’s largest integrated health care system.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr., who served as a VA nurse for more than 20 years, immediately decried the proposed legislation, saying:

“Once again, some lawmakers have completely ignored the evidence that the VA provides veterans the best – and only – integrated healthcare system tailored entirely to their needs. Instead of hiring the more than 45,000 frontline caregivers are veterans desperately need, they’d rather spend their time sticking it to the people who serve veterans every day.”

In addition to the punitive measures that could be used against future whistleblowers at the VA, the VA Accountability First Acts destroy the right of every VA front line employee to use union grievance procedures to efficiently and fairly address proposed adverse actions. The egregious proposal would leave VA frontline employees – 120,000 of which are veterans themselves – with only a rushed management-run appeals process. Not only that, but all frontline employees and managers would be left with weaker rights to appeal to the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) – their first chance at an independent review.

If enacted, the bills could inhibit the recruitment and retention of frontline workers who are already in dire need at the agency, which was noted in a signed letter from Cox to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Roe and Ranking Member Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota.

“The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 is a union-busting bill – plain and simple. It will only advance the agenda of the Koch brothers, anti-union lawmakers, and private, for-profit corporations that would reap the benefits of a dismantled VA medical system. Backhanded efforts to eliminate employees’ workplace rights does nothing to improve the VA or veterans’ care. In fact, it leaves nation’s veterans without the advocates who are empowered to speak up on their behalf every day.

“Every lawmaker who is willing to put veterans and their country above politics should oppose this bill. Veterans and all Americans should be able to get the true story of what is happening at the VA, and if this bill passes it will only ensure that VA officials and managers can be shielded from public scrutiny.”

Senators And Representatives Send Letter To President Trump Asking For VA To Be Exempt From Hiring Freeze

(Washington, DC) – Ranking Members of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees, Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Representative Tim Walz (D-Minn.), today led a group of 53 members of Congress to demand President Trump exempt the entire VA and all veterans seeking federal jobs from his executive order that freezes federal hiring.

The members say Trump’s hiring freeze will have devastating impacts on veterans and their families.

“A hiring freeze at the VA will delay veterans’ access to health care and resolution of their disability claims, which for many of our nation’s heroes provides a sole source of income to them and their families,” the members wrote. “Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring.”

The members additionally called on Trump to exempt all veterans seeking employment from his hiring freeze, underscoring that veterans make up 31 percent of the federal workforce. A hiring freeze across the federal government will hurt veterans, many of whom are transitioning from the military to civilian service and may be disabled.

“The negative impacts of this freeze will be felt across the country and disproportionately affect those men and women who have honorably served in our military,” they added.

The Senators and Representatives emphasized that the hiring freeze will add to the chronic workforce shortages that are plaguing the VA, and that more doctors, nurses and administrative staff are needed at VA facilities to reduce wait times across the country and make payments on time. 

The VA has reported it currently has more than 45,000 vacancies.

Dr. David Shulkin, Trump’s VA Secretary nominee, has said “I need to fill every one of those openings in order to make sure that we’re doing the very best for our veterans.”  

The VA has also reported that more than 40 percent of its senior officials are currently eligible for retirement.  Efforts to replace each of these employees would be dramatically impaired by the hiring freeze.       

There are currently more than 450,000 veterans waiting for the VA to fulfill the government’s commitment and provide them with the benefits they earned while serving the country. 

“I urge you to re-evaluate this hiring freeze and take into account the effect it will have on veterans who will have to wait longer for earned benefits,” the group added.

Acting VA Director Robert Snyder this week said the VA will continue to hire front-line caregivers despite the President’s executive order, but Senator Hassan and the other members want the entire VA exempt from the hiring freeze—including support staff, schedulers, IT specialists, and payment processers.

Both New Hampshire Senators Shaheen and Hassan joined Congresswoman Annie Kuster in signing the letter to President Trump to exempt the VA from the hiring freeze. 

The text of the letter is available below:


Dear President Trump:

We are deeply troubled that your freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees will have a negative and disproportionate impact on our nation’s veterans.  As such, we urge you to take stock of this hiring freeze’s effect on our nation’s veterans and exempt the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as any veterans seeking federal employment from your Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze. 

While there can be no debate that the federal government, including VA, should be more efficient in its delivery of services to all Americans, a hiring freeze at VA will delay veterans’ access to health care and resolution of their disability claims, which for many of our nation’s heroes provides a sole source of income to them and their families.  Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring. 

Have you considered how this hiring freeze will affect VA’s ability to provide veterans with access to health care?  For years, VA has faced chronic medical personnel shortages, particularly in rural areas.  As a result of the hiring freeze, the Department’s inability to hire clinicians and the administrative support teams to schedule appointments will have a direct impact on the number of veterans on waiting lists at facilities across the country.  Further, this will have an impact on community providers, who will be forced to continue waiting for delayed payments without VA having the ability to hire employees to process payments on their claims.  We urge you to re-evaluate this hiring freeze and take into account veterans who will face increased delay in accessing health care.

Have you considered how this hiring freeze will affect VA’s ability to provide veterans with decisions on their appeals for disability compensation?  More than 450,000 appeals are pending – that means that more than 450,000 veterans are waiting for the U.S. government to provide them with benefits earned while a disability was incurred while serving in our armed services.  Our nation’s veterans cannot afford an unnecessary wait to receive the benefits they have earned serving our country.  We urge you to re-evaluate this hiring freeze and take into account the effect it will have on veterans who will have to wait longer for earned benefits — whether it’s disability, survivor or education benefits, or whether it’s vocational rehabilitation or job training services.

Have you considered how this hiring freeze will impact those veterans who apply to federal jobs?  Veterans comprise 31 percent of the federal workforce and most receive a well-earned hiring preference when they apply for federal jobs.  An across-the-board freeze will hurt these veterans – many of whom are transitioning from military to civilian service, and many of whom are disabled. The negative impacts of this freeze will be felt across the country and disproportionately affect those men and women who have honorably served in our military. 

Should you move forward with this hiring freeze, one issue that must not be overlooked is VA’s little-known mission of providing support to national efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and man-made catastrophes.  We urge you to classify VA’s delivery of health care as a national security and public safety responsibility, as outlined in your Presidential Memorandum Regarding Hiring Freeze, and exempt it from this hiring freeze.  To do otherwise is to jeopardize the national security and public safety of our nation. 

Mr. President, this hiring freeze will have a dramatic impact on the quality of health care and benefits veterans receive.  We urge you to reconsider.

See the full list of co-signers here.

Congressman Frank Guinta’s Double Speak On Supporting Veterans

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value,” proclaimed Vice President Joe Biden in a 2012 speech.

Vice President Biden is basically saying is that if you are not willing to pay for something you say you value, then you really don’t value it at all. This type of double speak is common among some politicians.

In New Hampshire, Congressman Frank Guinta talks a good game about his support for veterans, but in Washington, he has a long history of failing our veterans.

“Our nation’s active duty personnel and veterans risk their lives to ensure our country remains safe in the face of ever evolving threats. Our military heroes deserve the very best, and as your representative to Washington, one of my highest priorities is to protect and expand the resources, services and support available to them.

We must keep our promise to provide for those who courageously put their lives on the line to serve and protect our great country. I have always been a strong advocate for our military members and veterans in the Granite State,” wrote Guinta on his website.

We owe our veterans the benefits they’ve earned, but Frank Guinta has consistently voted against increasing funding for veterans programs.

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Just nine months ago, Guinta voted against the Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds the government. The bill increased funding for the VA by $6.4 billion. The legislation, which fortunately was not tanked by Guinta’s refusal to support it, increased funding for medical care by $4.7 billion and provided funds to hire 770 VA disability claims processors to tackle the claims backlog.   

In one fell swoop, Guinta voted to shut down the government and refused to increase funding for critical veterans programs. He even called these important funding increases “inducements to vote for more federal bloat and debt.”   

While serving on the Budget Committee this year, Guinta rejected an attempt by Congressman Seth Moulton, an Iraq war veteran, to increase funding by $340 million for FY2017 and $1.14 billion for FY2018. These increases would have been paid for raising taxes on the wealthiest and repealing tax breaks for Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

“Frank Guinta may claim to fight for our veterans, but his votes prove that he betrays them in Congress.  His votes against increased funding for medical care, VA claims processors, and repairs to crumbling VA facilities show his dishonesty and disrespect for veterans,” said Carol Shea-Porter spokeswoman Naomi Andrews. “His Budget Committee votes place multinational corporations, billionaires, and Big Oil ahead of our obligations to our veterans. Carol Shea-Porter was a military spouse and is proud of her husband and all of America’s veterans. She looks forward to working again for our troops and our veterans in Congress.”

It seems pretty clear that Frank Guinta’s claim to be “a strong advocate for our military members and veterans” is just campaign double speak.

At House Veterans Affairs Committee Hearing, Kuster Highlights Efforts to Improve Health Care for Veterans

Kuster discussed legislation to reduce opioid use among veterans, increase hiring of veterans in VA medical facilitieskuster

(Washington, DC) – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and the lead Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, took part in a hearing to discuss healthcare for veterans at the VA and how to improve access to care. The hearing focused on “The Commission on Care and the Future of the VA Healthcare System” a report mandated by the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act (VACAA) of 2014. 

During her statement, Kuster highlighted two pieces of legislation that would advance improvements to access to healthcare and treatment for veterans. Kuster discussed the Helping Our Veterans With Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction Actwhich would establish pilot programs to facilitate the coordination of care and case management to veterans in need of chronic pain management, including veterans suffering from opioid dependency. Kuster specifically pointed out that past reliance on certain metrics for addressing pain had led to increased prescribing of opioids and that her legislation would encourage alternative methods of pain treatment.

Kuster also highlighted the Grow Our Own Directive: Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act of 2015 which would create a pilot program within the VA to provide educational assistance to former medics and corpsmen for education and training as physician assistants in the VA. 

You can watch Congresswoman Kuster’s full remarks here.

 

VA Union President Condemns Commission on Care’s Report as ‘Anti-Veteran’

AFGE leader calls on Congress to invest in VA caregivers and facilities rather than costly, unprepared private providers  

AFGE National President J. David Cox, Sr.WASHINGTON – Ahead of the Commission on Care’s September 7th hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, American Federation of Government Employees’ National President J. David Cox Sr. released the following statement:

“The American Federation of Government Employees condemns in the strongest possible terms, the horrendous, anti-veteran proposal put forward by the Commission on Care. Their recommendations would essentially destroy the veterans’ health care system, leaving millions of veterans without the integrated care they rely on. Veterans would suffer from a drastically reduced quality of care, higher costs, less access, and the system as a whole would become unaccountable to veterans and taxpayers. Instead it would place veterans’ care in the hands of executives with corporate backgrounds, leaving veterans without a voice.

If the Commission’s mission, as they state in their report, was to ‘provide eligible veterans prompt access to quality health care,’ they have achieved the opposite. The only result of these recommendations would be to fragment the most integrated health care approach in the nation, lower quality across the board by sending veterans to for-profit private providers, line the pockets of private hospital corporations, and hand over control of veterans’ healthcare to an out-of-touch, corporate-style board.

Veterans have overwhelmingly said they want to get their healthcare at the VA. It is the only system equipped to offer the veteran-centric healing they earned through their sacrifice. That’s why large and well-respected veterans service organizations like the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans oppose further privatization of the system, and why two of the Commissioners – Phillip Longman and Michael Blecker – have spoken out repeatedly against the Commission since the release of their final report.

The Commission was rigged from the beginning, and despite going on the record stating that the VA offered healthcare that was superior to what’s offered in the private sector, they’ve recommended a plan that will lead to the downfall of the system millions of veterans rely on. We cannot let that happen, and we hope that the American public will see the Commission’s report for what it truly is and instead listen to what our veterans want.

There are numerous studies and reports that prove time and again how the VA offers veterans the best health care option in the country. The RAND Corporation recently reported that the VA outperforms non-VA health care in preventative care, treatment, and outpatient care; and found that only 13 percent of mental health professionals in the private sector are even prepared to treat veterans. Additionally, the American Psychological Association found that “VA performance was superior to that of the private sector by more than 30 percent.” The VA is succeeding, and to continue that success we must invest in it, not undermine it with costly, fragmented care.

Veterans want the VA. They need the VA. We cannot let private interests dismantle that system in the name of corporate greed.”

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