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VA cutting regional office staffs by a quarter

Sep. 28, 2012 - 12:49PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The Veterans Affairs Department has begun slashing more than a quarter of its staff at 21 regional management offices. Above is the VA headquarters in Washington.
The Veterans Affairs Department has begun slashing more than a quarter of its staff at 21 regional management offices. Above is the VA headquarters in Washington. ()

The Veterans Affairs Department has begun slashing more than a quarter of its staff at 21 regional medical management offices.

The cuts will reduce total staffing at those regional offices from roughly 1,700 now to 1,236 — a cut of about 464 positions, according to a Sept. 10 internal memo obtained by Federal Times.

Each regional office had staffs of roughly 82 people on average, as of June. Under the new plan, they will shrink to between 55 — in the case of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 5, in Linthicum, Md. — and 65 — in the case of VISN 8, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

VA spokesman Phil Budahn declined to discuss the scope or timetable of the staffing cuts. In a statement, he said no employees would lose their jobs, although some might be shifted into other positions at medical centers within their regions.

Staffing at the offices has swelled over the years. When the regional offices were created almost 20 years ago, VA planners envisioned the total workforce for them to be only 220, a small fraction of their current 1,700-person size. The offices manage the VA’s 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks of medical care facilities around the country. Cumulatively, the offices are spending more than $203 million a year, the VA inspector general reported in audits earlier this year that found lax management and other problems.

The planned reorganization has identified “core functions” for the VISNs, accompanied by a staffing structure that “returns the consistent focus for VISNs as leadership organizations,” Budahn said.

VA first announced in June it would downsize the offices after Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced a bill to cut the number of VISN offices to 12. In a statement last week, Burr said he is pleased VA has begun to address the VISN offices’ “bloated nature.”

At the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents many VA employees, leaders echoed concerns about “unintended growth” at VISN management offices, but called for independent oversight of the reorganization. “With any changes in funding and resources, we believe that it is vital (Veterans Health Administration) employees and representatives have an opportunity for meaningful input,” AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee added in a statement..

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