(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees and its National VA Council (NVAC) yesterday, urged the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to support legislation that would provide full bargaining rights over compensation for physicians, dentists, registered nurses and other VA health care professionals covered by the Title 38 personnel system. AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox testified before the committee to stress the importance of passing S.572 to restore the compensation bargaining rights of health care clinicians at the VA and hold the agency accountable for its own pay laws.
AFGE represents more than 200,000 employees in the Department of Veterans Affairs, with two-thirds serving in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Many of these health care professionals are negatively impacted by the agency’s overly broad interpretation of Section 7422 of Title 38, prohibiting their right to bargain over routine pay matters such as nurse overtime and physician incentive pay.
“Over the past eight years, the VA has interpreted the Title 38 bargaining rights law to single out medical professionals covered under this regulation, and deprive them of basic rights to grieve and negotiate over routine pay matters,” said Cox. “U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has acknowledged that there is widespread pay abuse at the VA for Title 38 health care professionals. The VA makes the rules and all we are asking is that the VA start to live by its own rules.”
AFGE applauds the efforts of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has been a champion for collective bargaining rights for public employees and introduced S.572 with six original co-sponsors. In his statement before the committee, Brown stressed the importance of holding the VA accountable for its own pay laws. “This bill is not about bargaining over pay scales, but about giving employees the right to challenge violations of the VA’s own pay rules. It’s about fairness and ensuring VA medical professionals have the same rights as other VA employees and doctors and nurses at other federal facilities,” said Brown.
AFGE urges the committee to pass this legislation to ensure that the Title 38 medical professionals taking care of our nation’s veterans are provided the fair pay policies they deserve, which are afforded to their counterparts within the VA, the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Prisons. This measure also will hold the VA accountable for its own pay laws and assist in the agency’s ability to attract and retain leading health care professionals.
Click here to watch NST Cox’s full testimony. (His testimony begins 119:55 into the video).