(WASHINGTON)-The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) submitted a statement for the record to the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs' hearing on pending health care and benefits legislation in late October. AFGE and its National VA Council (NVAC) expressed support for Senate Bill 1556 aimed at restoring equal bargaining rights to health care professionals at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities.
In the statement the union indicated "S. 1556 provides a long overdue fix to a gross inequity in the law that weakens the VA's ability to attract and maintain a strong health care workforce. The law in question - 38 USC 7422 - also deprives veterans of full protection from improper and unsafe care." Those impacted by the current statute include registered nurses, physicians, dentists, physician assistants, optometrists, podiatrists, chiropractors and expanded-function dental auxiliaries.
"We have been working for years to get these issues surrounding Section 7422 corrected," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "Through this testimony and our efforts on the Hill we hope to gain significant movement on this issue. It is imperative that medical professionals impacted by this law have a fair voice at work."
"This arbitrary denial of bargaining rights to front-line personnel has to end," continued Cox. "Employees covered under the Title 38 personnel system have been negatively impacted by the agency's current overly broad interpretation of Section 7422. These employees have been prohibited from exercising their rights to bargain over routine pay matters, a right currently afforded to their counterparts within the VA, the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Prisons. The agency has kicked the can down the road for too long on this issue. S. 1556 will help to rectify this issue."
AFGE and its NVAC are troubled by the VA's continued practice of refusing to bargain over recent changes to policies surrounding Section 7422 and are still waiting for a response to an August 2013 information request regarding the large number of pending Section 7422 determination cases.