A rally on a busy Helena intersection was part of a nationwide effort drawing attention to a lack of Veterans Affairs medical staff. 

Among the signs at Wednesday evening's event were those that read: "No vet should wait in line," "I love my VA," and "Fully staff the VA."

Kate Haegele, one of the rally's organizers, said the purpose of the event was to put pressure on officials to staff the 49,000 unfilled positions in the VA nationwide.  

"Truly, we can't care for our veterans if we don't have a full staff," said Haegele, local union president with the American Federation of Government Employees. "It puts a lot of pressure on our employees that we do have staffed." 

In Montana, 14 of 40 VA primary care provider positions are unfilled. 

Officials recently said their efforts to recruit care providers and fill vacancies within the Montana VA include working with job recruiters from the Veterans Integrated Service Networks and pulling from other regional VAs.

Drivers honked and whistled as a show of support as they passed the rally at the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Last Chance Gulch.

Haegele said the location was chosen to be as visible as possible. 

"We figured we'd have more attention here than in front of the VA," she said.

More rallies are planned across the country in September, Haegele added.  


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