AFGE Weighs in on Bills Affecting Hundreds of Thousands of VA Employees

Categories: VA, Workers' Rights

AFGE General Counsel David Borer last week testified before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on three pending bills that would affect VA employees represented by AFGE. 

Based on feedback from our membership, the general counsel voiced support for two bills – H.R. 356 and H.R. 2344 – and opposed H.R. 1994. Here’s why. 

H.R. 356: AFGE strongly supports the Wounded Warrior Employment Improvement Act due to our concerns over the current performance metrics for our Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) employees. For example, current standards do not consider the changing circumstances of the veterans themselves and are based primarily on the number of rehabilitation successes rather than actual service provided.

H.R. 2344: AFGE supports the Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Improvement Act, particularly Section 5 of the bill, which would require VA to use one payment system when making payments to veterans in rehabilitation program. AFGE members reported issues with the Benefits Delivery Network (BDN) system, which has needed an upgrade for years. There also were redundancies with inputting information into both BDN and the other payment system, the Subsistence Allowance Module.

H.R. 1994: We strongly oppose the VA Accountability Act introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida. We urge lawmakers to reject this counteractive and dangerous bill as currently drafted. The bill would destroy the civil service protections of the frontline employees who are the eyes and ears on the ground looking out for veterans. The required longer probationary periods would subject employees and whistleblowers to discriminatory terminations. It would divert the resources of the Office of Special Counsel and Merit Systems Protection Board away from appropriate claims of retaliation and discrimination. It would also undermine the union’s ability to represent frontline employees facing retaliation, discrimination and other prohibited personnel practices. The bill also would cause significant numbers of healthcare professions in critical shortage occupations to leave the VA or reject a future VA career.

Read Borer’s testimony here.

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