Vacancies an issue for VA facilities across Mississippi

Published: Nov. 12, 2019 at 7:06 AM CST
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How are we taking care of our heroes when they get home?

Retired Major General Erik Hearon has been outspoken about issues at the G.V. Sonny Montgomery VA center in Jackson since 2013. His outlook now is more positive.

“I think we’re doing better," described Maj. Gen. USAF Ret. Erik Hearon. "There’s a lot of room to go, especially in the mental health care.”

Hearon’s still trying to help others navigate the red tape. The latest family he’s assisting keeps running into road blocks.

“They’ve been trying to get their family member with traumatic brain injury into the VA for a year-and-a-half or so," he said. "But there’s always some excuse.”

He describes this as another ongoing issue.

“Send a patient out to a civilian caretaker/doctor, but they won’t pay them in a timely manner," explained Hearon. "That may have gotten a little better but it’s still a problem.”

Both of those issues could be tied back to staffing. The Office of Inspector General released this report in September detailing issues at the majority of the VAs.

Check out what you find when you do a search of job openings in Jackson and Biloxi. 48 in Jackson and 35 in Biloxi. They need folks to fill seemingly significant positions like: psychiatrist, chief mental health physician, pulmonary critical care and chief nurse in the mental health area.

The September report indicates there were 25 positions in Biloxi that are designated as “severe shortage.”

“People who have served deserve better than they’re getting,” added Hearon.

But Hearon credits the current director at the Jackson VA facility with making it a common practice to hear feedback from veterans in the community.