Employees of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center and others picketed Friday in front of the Leavenworth veterans hospital.

Employees of the Eisenhower VA Medical Center and others picketed Friday in front of the Leavenworth veterans hospital.

Jennifer Gum said employees were concerned about vacancies at the hospital and proposed budget cuts.

"They need to staff the VA," she said. "We want to take care of our vets."

Gum is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 85, which is the local union for VA employees.

Participants of the picket stood along South Fourth Street near the main entrance to the Eisenhower VA Medical Center.

The Eisenhower VA Medical Center is part of the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. The VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System includes a hospital in Topeka as well as a number of outpatient clinics.

The VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System currently has 1,735 employees and 400 vacancies, said Joseph Burks, public affairs officer for the system.

He said this is about a 19 percent vacancy rate.

He said officials are actively working to fill 306 of the vacancies.

Burks said vacancies are an issue throughout the national VA system as well as community hospitals across the country.

Gum said there also is concern about the lack of training for employees regarding post traumatic stress disorder. She said the VA hires many veterans, some of whom may suffer from PTSD.

Burks said a decision to implement PTSD training for VA employees would have to come at the national level. He recognized there may be an opportunity for union officials to make a national push for such training.

"I think it's a rather good opportunity," he said.

Gum also expressed concern about the Veterans Choice Program. The result of federal legislation, the program provides opportunities for some veterans to seek outside medical care depending on potential wait times or travel distances.

Gum argued that the VA should focus on hiring more personnel to support veterans.

Friday's picket was scheduled to last from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. In addition to VA employees, it was anticipated that federal workers from other agencies would stop by to show their support, Gum said.

She said Friday's rally likely will be followed by similar events across the country.

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