(WASHINGTON) – The American Federation of Government Employees and the National VA Council (NVAC) today criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for moving to outsource the processing of GI Bill education benefits saying that the move would eliminate the valuable expertise of federal employees and uproot over 400 career federal employees. Both AFGE and the National VA Council also expressed deep concerned about the disproportionate and disparate impact outsourcing these governmental functions will have on veterans; more than 50 percent of the Education Division bargaining unit employees at the affected facilities are veterans.
“The knowledge and expertise of these career employees will be invaluable in processing the extended benefits of the Post-9/11 GI bill,” said Alma Lee, president of AFGE’s National Veterans Affairs Council. “Retaining the experienced federal workers currently in the Education Division would be a far more effective approach to ensuring the veterans receive their valuable GI benefits in a timely and accurate manner.”
VA Secretary Peake stated in a letter to the National VA Council that the VA was conducting the outsourcing to meet the challenges of creating procedures and systems to support the new program by its launch date of August 1, 2009. Yet, the VA itself noted less than a year ago in a news release that the Education Division had, “dramatically improved its ability to process applications for GI Bill education benefits from veterans and service members.”
In fact, the VBA currently has hundreds of employees in the Education Division who already process benefits under the current GI bill – as such any outsourcing of this work amounts to a violation of federal law. “The VA’s claim that this is new work is simply wrong. It is the same job under new and old law and it’s outsourcing an inherently governmental function,” Lee added.
AFGE and the NVAC have proposed a three point plan as an alternative to outsourcing the GI bill benefits that would save tax payer money, protect federal employees and avoid violations in federal public-private competition laws.
“We simply do not believe that the intent of Senator Webb’s bill was to reward new veterans for their valiant service, while limiting employment opportunities for those who are already employed by the VBA and for those seeking future employment,” said Lee .