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The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to deal with an increase in demand for medical care in its system and is taking steps to bolster staffing and ensure the agency’s systems are secure, according to a top aide to President Donald Trump.
«I am extremely concerned by the level of demand in the VA system and the way that VA is operating,» acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement Monday.
«VA must ensure the safety and security of its staff and patients.
We must do everything in our power to ensure these needs are met.»
The VA said it expects to see an increase of 20 percent or more in the number of calls it receives each month as it tries to maintain staffing levels and ensure its systems are safe.
It also said it is «actively investigating» the cause of the recent increase.
Agency spokesman Mark Albrecht said the department has made «significant progress» in reducing wait times at VA facilities and reducing wait time for patients.
«We are committed to making sure that we can ensure the health and safety of our staff and patient population, but we are working hard to address the root causes of the crisis,» Albrech said.
«This is a crisis of the VA, and it is a system crisis.»
The Trump administration has promised to slash the VA budget by about $20 billion in the next decade, a move that will put the agency at the center of a government shakeup.
The VA has been under increasing pressure from Congress to improve its services and provide more money to care for veterans, especially those with health issues and conditions.
Trump has proposed $8 billion in cuts in his budget proposal that would have to be approved by Congress to be enacted.
The administration has proposed eliminating the VA’s chief medical officer and replacing her with a deputy.
The VA has also said the proposed cuts will affect an estimated 3,000 employees.
The agency has also announced plans to hire at least 1,500 additional nurses, aides and psychologists.
But the department said the hiring plans have not yet been finalized.