The protesters, most of whom marched in the parade, called on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to “Staff the VA” and oppose current efforts to privatize the agency. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents VA employees in Portland and across the nation, says there are roughly 49,000 vacancies in the VA system nationwide. The Portland VA Hospital has been slow to share current vacancy information with Portland-based AFGE Local 2157.
Protesters encouraged the community to call the Portland VA and request that they release the information. Kimberly Bump, event organizer and vice president of Local 2157 at the Portland VA, pointed out that Congress has been eager to give billions of dollars to the Choice Program, which pays for veterans to see private doctors, while not addressing needs of the VA.
“We dedicate our lives to caring for veterans,” said Bump. “For this president and this Congress to send more resources into the private sector, while ignoring a staffing crisis in the VA, is a national disgrace.”