WASHINGTON – Today, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union representing 260,000 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees, reacted to the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) recent update to their personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution policy.
The policy change – announced via an email from Dr. Richard Stone , VHA Executive in Charge – gives employees working in community living centers, spinal cord injury facilities, and inpatient mental health wards one mask per day – instead of only receiving one mask per week per the previous policy. These changes came after the policy drew harsh criticisms from AFGE and a coalition of VA unions, which sent a letter to VA Leadership.
AFGE National President Everett Kelley issued the following statement:
“VA employees across the nation are facing the deadly consequences of the VA’s lack of action, testing, and personal protective equipment to date.
“While we are encouraged by the policy change that says VA employees in community living centers, spinal cord injury centers, and inpatient medical health units will start receiving additional PPE to support their duties, the VA needs to ‘mean what they say.’
“Let’s not forget that the VA has been claiming throughout this pandemic that our members on the front lines have the PPE they need. Beginning to change course, admit the issues, and address the problem with a policy change is a good start from the agency, but our members on the ground need to actually get the PPE in their hands. Too many VA employees are still fighting on the front lines of this pandemic without the proper equipment and safety protocols in place.
“AFGE members made these changes possible by speaking up and demanding better treatment – and we will keep fighting until every VA employee has what they need.”