Tester Doubles Down on Holding VA Accountable for Crippling Vacancies

Senator Asks How VA is Addressing 45,000 Nationwide Vacancies

(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jon Tester is doubling down on his push to address crippling workforce shortages at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).

Tester recently oversaw a Committee hearing on the ‘State of the VA’ where workforce vacancies were a central theme. Tester requested information from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie about how the VA is utilizing the tools he worked in a bipartisan manner to secure for the Department to address nationwide workforce vacancies.

“Mr. Secretary, today you will be receiving a letter from me that requests more information about how VA is using these additional authorities,” said Tester. “It’s not an exercise to create additional paperwork for you. It’s so this Committee can have a better idea of what is working and what is not and can better focus our efforts. Since vacancies continue to be the biggest barrier to primary, specialty and mental care for veterans across the country, I think that’s a very reasonable request. And I hope we can work very closely on this issue moving forward.”

In a letter handed to Wilkie, Tester asked how the VA is utilizing the authorities and resources provided by bipartisan reform bills signed into law over the last two years. The bipartisan reforms co-authored by Tester and Republican Chairman Johnny Isakson include the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act and the VA MISSION Act.

“I have continued to press for additional hiring authorities for the VA because I believe veterans deserve better,” Tester wrote. “I continue to hear from veterans across Montana that vacancies and constant turnover in VA facilities impacts how quickly they can get appointments and prevents them from building quality doctor-patient relationships. We need to know that the VA is doing everything it can to ensure the Veterans Health Administration achieves full clinical capacity and that critical non-clinical positions are filled to support delivery of benefits.”

Tester’s letter is available online HERE.