WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees today sent letters to lawmakers working out differences between Senate and House VA health care bills urging their support to provide needed resources to improve staffing at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) medical centers. AFGE supports the Senate version of H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care Act of 2014.
In the letter AFGE states “Year after year, the VA health care system has been deprived of sufficient funding for staffing and facilities, despite the growing demand for health care services by veterans of all ages. Consequently, the VA is now facing its own emergency, a diminishing capacity to provide care in a timely manner, and is in urgent need of emergency appropriations to address the unmet needs of so many veterans seeking care at the VA.”
The letter also explains that key provisions in the Senate version of H.R. 3230 need to be kept intact, including tuition assistance and other recruitment and retention incentives to providers in the shortest supply. AFGE also supports provisions in the Senate version for greater transparency of information about VA staffing levels and long range staffing plans, improved data collection on provider turnover and expanded services for victims of military sexual trauma.
“As we look to improve the health care system for our veterans, it is critical that we support and strengthen the processes that have delivered excellent care to our nation’s heroes, rather than dismantle the VA through hasty and non-strategic privatization,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “We urge the conferees to take action on pieces of the legislation that will truly address weaknesses in the system such as increased staffing and training, expanded access to critical services for victims of military sexual trauma, and expanded educational benefits for veterans and surviving spouses of vets.”
AFGE urges conferees to retain the Senate’s balanced proposal for holding managers accountable for improper actions through performance-based personnel actions that are subject to an expedited appeals process. AFGE opposes the blanket bonus ban in the House version that would unfairly deny rank-and-file VA employees, who have no input into managerial decisions, recognition for exceptional job performance.
“Public servants working at the VA are dedicated to the mission of the agency and serving our nation’s heroes,” said Cox. “In fact, many of them are veterans themselves. We need to give them the support and resources they need to meet the demand and give our heroes the timely, quality care they deserve."