Some vets worried about growing VA crackdown on unvaccinated workers

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Some local veterans say they’re worried a growing crackdown on unvaccinated workers could leave them with no one to care for them in VA hospitals.

The VA has been pushing its healthcare workers who deal personally with veterans to get vaccinated for coronavirus or be fired.

“I see that our care will be out the window,” exclaimed Army Veteran John McCune, “This is a very scary situation for all of us. And this is just not fair. And we have to do something.”

McCune said he’s afraid of what’ll happen at his VA Community Living Center (CLC) in Batavia which he says is already short on medical personnel.

“We have very little workers now to where they can fill the schedule. They struggle to fill the schedule,” he said.

Some Veterans Administration employees have been raising the alarm over these notices they’ve been getting, ordering those still not vaccinated for coronavirus to get their shots, get an official exemption or be transferred out or fired.

The VA says 179 of its employees in Western New York facilities like the CLC or the VA hospital in Buffalo have asked for vaccine exemptions. That’s more than 5% of its workforce there.

One employee, who wanted to be anonymous says that could be devastating.

"If this goes through and staff don’t comply, and they are fired, it could potentially put our veterans at risk due to critical nursing shortages,” he said.

“It was very troublesome and scary,” added McCune, “because now, the stress level and my PTSD just goes through the roof.”

Covid shot mandates now have new momentum with the latest federal court ruling handed down in Texas Thursday that reinstated President Biden’s executive order requiring vaccines. But the VA was already moving independently with its own mandates.

An administration representative said there’s no imminent mass shortage of staff, that nobody’s eager to fire anyone but that “HCP [Health Care Personnel] are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved reasonable accommodation related to the requirement… The goal of the mandate is to increase vaccination and thereby patient and employee safety.”

McCune said, as someone the mandate is supposed to protect, he doesn’t understand it.

“I have no problem, and no fear about having individuals that are unvaccinated taking care of me,” he declared. “All of us veterans within this facility have not only are vaccinated, but boostered as well. Please, tell me, does the vaccine work or does it not?”