In 2017, the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act was signed into law. Lawmakers claimed that this law was necessary to help the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) get rid of unethical managers and help veterans get their health care faster. However, it has notoriously been used to fire low-level employees, many of whom are people of color and veterans.
Following passage of Accountability Act, the VA began unilaterally sending pre-hearing submissions, which are briefs, memos, or letters that one party sends to an arbitrator outlining legal or factual arguments. VA’s pre-hearing submissions outlined their flawed interpretation of the Accountability Act – previewing its since-debunked claims that the VA was not required to follow certain procedures in the 2011 Master Agreement and that arbitrators could not review the reasonableness of the penalty chosen by the VA.
On Nov. 15, 2018, AFGE’s National VA Council filed a national grievance arguing that the VA’s practice of sending pre-hearing submissions constituted a change to the arbitration process, which is a violation of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute and Article 44 of the collective bargaining agreement between AFGE NVAC and the VA.
Arbitrator Gary Eder sustained the grievance; however, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) later remanded the award for additional findings on the unfair labor practice claim, absent settlement.
In June 2021, NVAC and the VA reached a settlement and in exchange for the VA’s agreement to cease and desist its practice of unilateral pre-hearing submissions in cases arising out of Section 714 of the Accountability Act, NVAC would withdraw the national grievance. The settlement also requires the VA to rescind these pre-hearing submissions in pending 714 cases.