SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a small but growing number of vets have been leaving jobs they have held for years in the health care and veterinary industries, leaving the country with more than $200 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
The move could prompt a wave of retirements across the health and veterinary sectors as health care workers who have been paid less for years find their benefits cut, and a growing number are being forced to accept the new jobs.
The health care sector lost nearly 1 million jobs last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Associated Press is not identifying the vets who are leaving or the industry they are leaving, but they are raising concerns about the industry’s future as the country’s biggest provider of health care.
“The number of people retiring from the health-care profession is rising, but there are so many people leaving that it’s hard to know how many of those are actually in the profession and how many are just leaving because they can’t make the payments,” said Kathy Brown, who manages the agency’s disability and retiree programs.
Brown said that many of the people leaving are from health care industry positions, which include nurses, physician assistants, physician physicians and other professionals.
She said they are being asked to work longer hours, and many have had to quit their jobs.
“They are making more than their current salaries.
And they are working long hours,” Brown said.
Veterans in some states have filed lawsuits against the VA and the White House over its handling of disability and retirement issues.
Brown said she and other vets have also been told by the White, Senate and House of Representatives that they have to wait until the next election cycle to get benefits.
The VA, which is under the Trump administration, has not commented.
Brown says the VA is also not answering calls and emails to the AP seeking comment.
The number for the Oklahoma Department of Health and Human Services is listed as 818-979-3312.
Brown did not immediately know how long the vets are staying.
She also said that the VA will have to pay a $6 million administrative fee to continue to monitor the status of the health professionals.
The veterans are in the process of filing a federal lawsuit, Brown said, which could lead to additional cases.
Veteran advocates say the trend could lead health care professionals to leave the industry as the health insurance and benefits costs rise.
The average veteran is receiving about $8,500 in disability payments a year, while the average retiree is receiving $1,800 a year.
The health care job losses have been a growing concern for health care experts as they prepare to see their retirement benefits cut next year as the number of insured seniors hits a record high of 23 million.
The problem for many of these veterans is they are paying for a retirement plan that they never had to pay for.
In 2016, the VA’s annual retirement benefits were about $6 billion.
Now, the annual payment is about $2.5 billion, with some veterans receiving as little as $2,500.
“We’ve got to see what happens next year and see what’s the best way to manage that,” said Michael Kagan, executive director of the National Veterans Health Coalition, which advocates for veterans and their families.
The Department of Justice has also filed lawsuits in Washington state, Minnesota and North Carolina challenging the VA.
A VA spokesman declined to comment.