PVA voices concerns about staffing shortages at VA’s health care system

Post Date: March 4, 2020
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WASHINGTON (March 3, 2020) — Paralyzed Veterans of America’s leaders are meeting with lawmakers this week to urge that veterans’ health care, benefits, and civil rights are prioritized during the second session of the 116th Congress. Before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs today, PVA National President David Zurfluh stressed the need to increase staffing levels across the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system and access to caregivers’ benefits.
“Preserving and strengthening the VA’s specialized systems of care, such as Spinal Cord Injury and Disease (SCI/D) care, remains the highest priority for Paralyzed Veterans of America,” said Zurfluh. “However, if the VA continues to woefully understaff facilities, their capacity to treat veterans will be diminished, and could lead to the closure of facilities and reductions in services offered to them.”
In 2019, nearly 49,000 staffing positions at VA medical facilities were vacant. The extensive hiring processes make it difficult to hire and retain staff, which prohibits SCI/D Centers from meeting adequate staffing levels that are needed to care for this specialized population. According to PVA, there is a shortage of 600 nurses in the SCI/D System of Care.
“Given this dire situation, Paralyzed Veterans of America strongly advocates for Congress to provide enough funding for the VA to reform its hiring practices and hire additional medical professionals, particularly physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and rehabilitation therapists, to meet demand for services in the SCI/D System of Care and ensure the positions, pay, and other incentives they offer are competitive with the private sector,” said Zurfluh.
In 2018, eligibility under the VA’s Comprehensive Family Caregiver Program was expanded to include seriously-injured veterans from eras pre-9/11. The VA has failed to meet congressional deadlines to expand the caregiver benefits required in the VA MISSION Act, leaving thousands of eligible veterans and their caregivers without the benefits that they’ve earned and deserve.
“Paralyzed Veterans of America calls on Congress to perform effective oversight to press the VA to implement the expansion of caregiver benefits to eligible veterans and caregivers by June,” said Zurfluh. “Under the caregiver program, the final phase of expansion to service-connected injured veterans was delayed after its expected implemention on October 1, 2021, so we urge Congress to hold the VA accountable for these veterans having to wait to receive their benefits.”
PVA is advocating for critical issues that affect veterans with spinal cord injuries or diseases, such as MS or ALS, and all people with disabilities. Please view our 2020 policy priorities for more information.