WASHINGTON – This morning, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. testified in front of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the fallout from last year’s passing of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
During the hearing, “The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act: One Year Later,” Cox and Acting Secretary of the VA Peter O’Rourke were called on to discuss the implementation and effects of the law that has rolled back due process rights and resulted in more than 1,000 veterans being fired from the VA.
“The Accountability Act has turned out to be the most counterproductive VA law ever enacted. It has demoralized and harmed its dedicated workforce, a third of whom are veterans themselves,” said Cox in his opening remarks. Adding that, “Of the 1,096 VA employees fired in first five months of 2018, only 15 were supervisors,” and “Housekeeping aides – virtually all of whom are disabled vets – were the largest number fired, followed by nursing assistants, registered nurses, food service workers and medical support assistants.”
Cox’s testimony comes just weeks after the one-year anniversary of the so-called Accountability Act, and allowed for AFGE to sound the alarm on the “disproportionate impact on VA’s lowest paid and veteran workforce,” and the lack of protection for whistleblowers, who are now “easier than ever to fire.”
According to available data, firings are up at the VA under President Trump and the Accountability Act by more than 20 percent, “despite warnings from experts that mismanagement, not the union, and not job protections for frontline employees, was undermining the VA’s capacity to deliver services to veterans.”
In both his testimony and the written statement submitted to the committee, Cox touched on how “the VA health care system outperforms the private sector,” how long wait lists stem from “severe shortages of providers and distorted management incentive systems,” and that “Destroying federal employee due process and union rights continue to be the vehicles of choice for those intent on destroying the civil service and starving the VA into further privatization.”
Cox’s testimony comes as the VA still is struggling to fill the more than 49,000 vacancies nationwide and grapples with a leadership void that has existed since Secretary David Shulkin was pushed out by pro-privatizers within the administration.
Cox concluded the testimony by bringing up the VA’s implementation of President Trump’s union-busting Executive Orders by saying, “We’ve learned that VA is ready to evict all union representatives from their offices tomorrow – in order not to allow this outrageous union-busting tactic to be discussed at this hearing. But this terrible law is cut from the same cloth as President Trump’s union-busting executive orders. They are but two sides of the same coin and Congress must act to curb these profoundly undemocratic actions.”
For Cox’s full testimony, please visit www.afge.org/accountabilityturnsone