April 04, 2002
Magda Lynn Seymour
Diane S. Witiak
(202) 639-6419

AFGE Will Sit on National Commission on VA Nursing

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—J. David Cox, R.N., Executive Vice President (EVP) of the American Federation of Government Employees' (AFGE) National VA Council, has been appointed to the National Commission on VA Nursing.

Cox, a Registered Nurse at the W.G. Bill Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury, N.C. since 1984, holds the elected position of President of AFGE Local 1738 as well as EVP of the union's national council. He has testified before Congress on several occasions regarding the critical shortage of nurses in the Veterans Affairs Department and its impact on patient care.

"Cox's experience as a Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse will ensure that the National Commission on VA Nursing keeps grounded in the challenges nurses face in their daily practice at the VA," said Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). "Nurses are strong advocates for patients but they need an advocate, too. As an AFGE leader, Cox has tirelessly and passionately urged the VA to improve the working conditions and compensation of VA nurses as a means of ensuring safe staffing levels."

AFGE will urge the Commission to take steps to ensure adequate staffing levels are maintained, improve the compensation for all nursing staff, restrict the abuses of mandatory overtime, improve opportunities for promotion, foster nurse education for non-RNs, and assure nurses to have a stronger voice at the workplace through their unions.

"The VA is in a nursing crisis. It must not only address compensation for dedicated nurses, but also renew its respect for its nursing staff by curbing mandatory overtime and giving nurses a real say in their practice at the VA," says Cox. The VA must develop a working program to encourage current employees who are not RNs to become RNs. In this nursing shortage, the VA needs to grow its own," he adds.

PL 107-135 which established the National Commission on VA Nursing, authorizes consideration of "legislative and organizational changes to enhance the recruitment and retention of nurses" and assess the future of the nursing profession within VA. A report on the Commission's findings and recommendations is due in May 2004.

AFGE, which represents some 125,000 DVA employees, is the largest union for government employees, representing 600,000 federal and D.C. government workers. For more on AFGE, log onto

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