TEMPLE - The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is demanding the Veterans Association fill 49,000 job vacancies immediately.
Union members said the veterans are waiting in long lines and then being rushed through meetings with healthcare professionals.
More than a dozen AFGE union members held signs and raised awareness outside the Temple facility on Tuesday.
Denise Jackson, Legislative Political Coordinator with AFGE Local 2109, said veterans are getting referred to outside providers because the VA does not have the resources.
"We need continuity of care, we need our veterans served within our own system, and it works, if we only had enough staff, it would work better," she said. "We're having to do the work of three or four people and that's very stressful, that's not good for anyone. Wow, that destroys, staff, it destroys patients, it's never good to be overworked and understaffed."
The employees said private hospitals will not know how to fully care for the veterans because they will not treat them for life.
"I know the VA offers different kind of care than private hospitals do. When we see a patient, we're treating that patient for their entire life. We're not just here for the symptoms and signs. The holistic care, all the overall care we provide veterans," said Charles Kabrich, Chief Steward for AFGE, and a veteran himself.
AFGE in Temple said it's important for veterans, after serving the country, to get access to quality care. The rally and others across the country come as Congress continues to debate the Veterans Choice Program, which aims to give veterans an option to seek private care.
"We know how to take care of them as veterans. Most private hospitals do not know how to care of our veterans. And the veterans love coming to the hospital here to receive care," said Virgie Hardeman, President of the Local AFGE Chapter 2109.
AFGE employees have already done 51 rallies in 26 states. They will be holding a similar rally demanding a fully-staffed VA.
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