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PRESS RELEASE / ANNOUNCEMENTS Monday, January 11, 2016

Rep. Capps Sends Letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Rep. Capps Sends Letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Letter raises concerns over staff shortages and delayed care

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] Today, Rep. Lois Capps sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald highlighting concerns of staffing shortages in Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities along the Central Coast.

In the letter Rep. Capps references concerns raised by multiple constituents to her office that there are a number of long-term unfilled positions at VA facilities in her district. The letter goes on to explain that the staffing shortages have resulted in delays in gaining access to care.

A copy of the text of the letter is enclosed below:

Dear Secretary McDonald:
I write to bring to your attention the impact that staffing shortages in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities along the Central Coast of California are having on my constituents.
It has come to my attention that there are a number of long-term unfilled positions at VA facilities in my district. In recent months, I have been contacted by constituent VA patients who have reported being unable to reach the Santa Barbara and Santa Maria Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) by phone. They report that their calls were rerouted to VA’s Los Angeles call center, where they were placed on long holds or asked to leave voicemails that never received a response.

It is my understanding that the Santa Maria clinic needs to fill two Medical Support Assistant positions, who as you know, are the employees responsible for answering incoming phone calls. It is also my understanding that the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo clinics are each in need of an additional Medical Support Assistant. In addition, there have also been four recent tele-health mental health provider losses in the Greater Los Angeles Health System (GLAHS), serving our local CBOCs. While many VA employees continue to work hard to address these gaps, these combined vacancies are hampering access to the care our veterans have earned.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that several key senior positions in the GLAHS regional office are also vacant, including the position of Director, Chief of Staff and Associate Director of Ambulatory Care. I am concerned the lapse in these crucial leadership positions may be having adverse effects on the effectiveness of GLAHS to serve our veterans.

As you know, VA faces staffing shortages nation-wide. While I appreciate your agency’s efforts to address these shortages, I firmly believe more must be done. Many VA job applicants face a complicated, months-long hiring process for certain positions within the department, and I remain concerned that every unfilled position continues to put our nation’s veterans’ health at risk.
It is important that we have a full picture of the issue in order to work together to rectify the problem. As such, I respectfully request that VA provide my office with the following information: the number of job vacancies in VA facilities in my congressional district and at the GLAHS regional office; the amount of time these positions have remained unfilled; and GLAHS’ plan for filling these positions, including a timeline for when these posts are expected to be filled.
Fully-staffed CBOCs and regional offices are essential to ensuring that our veterans’ receive the highest quality care they have earned, and I look forward to your response detailing how VA plans to address these shortages.

Sincerely,

LOIS CAPPS
Member of Congress

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