Vacancy data that the VA has begun reporting under a requirement of a 2018 law is not as accurate or as helpful as it could be, an IG report has said.
The VA MISSION Act among other things required the department to quarterly report on its long-running problem with high rates of vacancies–around 50,000 in recent times, mostly in patient care occupations, as the on-board workforce stood at around 360,000–and its progress toward filling them. However, the first reports under that requirement “used alternative aggregation methods and lacked sufficient transparency to permit stakeholders to use this information to track VA’s progress toward meeting full staffing capacity,” the report said.
“For example, most reported vacancies were generalized under a broad occupational group that included clinical and nonclinical positions. Specific occupations, such as physicians or nurses, were not identified. Without the required specificity, a user of the data cannot identify shortages by occupation, such as those who provide direct patient care to veterans,” it said.
Further, vacancy data by facility were “unreliable,” with the number of authorized positions varying from the number VA uses in an internal record-keeping system by as much as 20 percent. “VA medical facilities risk reporting vacancy numbers that do not accurately reflect their needs,” it said, adding that some of the time-to-hire data were inaccurate, as well.
VA further did not maintain historical staffing and vacancy data that would indicate trends, it said. Management agreed with recommendations to address those issues.