(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees’ National VA Council (NVAC) is calling on President Obama to halt the downgrade of administrative positions at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers. The Council is outraged by this ongoing practice that threatens the livelihood of thousands of employees throughout the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Payroll technicians, patient support assistants, file clerks and other workers, most of whom are GS-7 level and below, are seeing their positions downgraded across the country in an arbitrary and unjust manner.
“We are seeking the administration’s immediate assistance in securing a ceasefire in the secret war being waged against low wage employees of the VHA,” said Alma Lee, president of AFGE’s NVAC. “These modestly paid employees are the heart and soul of VA medical centers, working hard every day to keep patients and employees safe, answer patients’ calls, maintain medical records and perform other functions that enable VA medical professionals to care for our wounded soldiers.”
The majority of the public servants in these positions are veterans, women and minorities facing the same economic challenges of millions of working class families around the country. Already straddled with the burden of the ongoing recession, the VHA administrative workforce is suffering from further economic distress because of these subjective downgrades by management without adequate fact finding.
“We are in the troughs of a severe jobs crisis in this country and cannot afford for hardworking federal employees, caring for our nation’s veterans, to be thrown on the chopping block and downgraded with no regard to the impact of the services they provide. It is grossly unfair to conduct massive downgrades of low wage employees in the name of consistency while failing to review any of the positions held by managers,” said Lee.
AFGE’s National VA Council represents more than 200,000 employees within the VA and has urged the agency to conduct a fair investigation of the targeted positions before imposing these devastating downgrades; however, the Council has been met with empty promises and little results. Management has proceeded with these downgrades without complying with OPM rules or speaking directly with many of the affected employees to assess the scope of their work. NVAC now is seeking the assistance of the Obama administration in suspending the VHA downgrades pending a fair evidence-based analysis of all VHA positions.
“The Council supports President Obama’s efforts to reduce federal spending and eliminate waste in the federal government and believe we can work with the agency to accomplish these goals,” said Lee. “However, enacting budget cuts and imposing arbitrary downgrades on the backs of public servants earning a modest federal wage is not a viable path to fiscal responsibility.”