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ICYMI: Ranking Member Bost During Full Committee Hearing on VA Staffing: “In any organization, your people are your most precious resource.”

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the Committee’s hearing to assess the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system staffing levels:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate the opportunity today to discuss the staffing and hiring challenges V.A. faces nationwide.

In any organization, your people are your most precious resource.

That is true of V.A. as well.

V.A. is the second largest agency in the Federal government.

It is staffed by more than 400,000 hard-working professionals.

Many of them are veterans themselves.

They work every day to give veterans the care and benefits they have earned.

Most of them work in the Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.).

Their jobs aren’t always easy - especially over the last two years.

But, they perform life-saving work for veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors.

We do have to hold them accountable when they fail.

But we owe them a debt of gratitude.

And, we owe it to them to ensure that they have what they need to succeed.

That is what I look forward to discussing this morning.

Any organization as large as V.H.A. is going to have constant employee turnover.

That is why – even though V.H.A.’s turnover rate is better than its industry peers – the V.A. healthcare system has about 50,000 vacancies right now.

That’s a big number.

Most of those vacancies are for doctors, nurses, schedulers, social workers, and housekeeping aides.

Those positions are critical to keeping V.A’s hospitals and clinics up and running.

And, it is harder than ever before to find workers to fill those positions.

The American Hospital Association recently called the health care provider workforce shortage a national emergency.

V.H.A. must use every tool at its disposal to confront that emergency.

V.H.A. must bring new recruits on-board quickly before they are lost to other organizations.

V.H.A. must maximize retention incentives to keep good workers at V.A. and make the most efficient use of the existing workforce.

V.H.A. must install the right I.T. tools to guide hiring efforts and identify facilities that are struggling.

V.HA. must also end the vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The V.A. health care system has about 50,000 vacancies across the country right now.

The V.A. healthcare system also has about 40,000 workers who have requested an exemption to the vaccine mandate.

Every one of those exemption requests should be honored.

Veterans are waiting weeks or months, for care in certain cases.

Staffing shortages will only make those wait times longer.

That could have life-or-death consequences for veterans.

With the market as tight as it is, the last thing V.A. should be doing is interfering with their employee’s personal health decisions, much less firing anyone for exercising their health or religious freedoms.

Veterans have fought to preserve those freedoms for centuries.

It is wrong for V.A. to erode them in veterans’ names.

I urge the Secretary to reverse the mandate immediately.

With that, I yield back.

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