But that cost effectiveness has its own cost. Support staff for the VA earn from $20,000 to $165,000 a year less than their private-sector counterparts. A cardiac surgeon who earns $99,000 to $385,000 a year at the VA could earn $421,000 to $556,000 in the private sector. With such wage disparity, it's not surprising the VA acknowledges its staffing deficits — it needs 10,000 more support staff and 1,500 more physicians. Moreover, the VA suffers from a shortage of facilities. In recognition of this, a 2014 overhaul of the VA called for opening 27 new clinics.