May 01, 2019

Tim Kauffman

[email protected]

Mismanagement at Las Vegas VA Highlights Need for Congressional Action, Union Says

Categories: VA

News report documenting low morale, worker retaliation echoes widespread problems affecting veterans’ care

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 250,000 employees across the Department of Veterans Affairs, says a recent news report documenting serious management failings at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System illustrates widespread problems affecting veterans’ care that have worsened under this administration.

KTNV spoke with more than a dozen current and former employees – doctors, nurses, and support staff – who said veterans’ care is suffering as a result of a management culture that disrespects employees, retaliates against workers who identify problems, and is worried more about meeting unrealistic administrative goals than providing veterans with the best care.

“This report echoes what our members have been telling us and paints a distressing picture of how our veterans are not getting the care they deserve due to the failed leadership of this administration,” said AFGE Local 1224 President Linda Ward-Smith, whose local represents more than 2,700 health care workers and staff in Southern Nevada.

“There are 49,000 vacancies across the VA, including 600 health-care positions in Southern Nevada,” Ward-Smith said. “Rather than fill those positions so veterans can get the care they want from trained VA professionals, this administration is pushing employees out the door as it pursues a privatization agenda that will only benefit health-care corporations.”

The KTNV report documents troubling employee morale issues stemming from staff vacancies, high turnover, mismanagement, and whistleblower retaliation. Making matters worse is a November directive from the Trump administration that denies union representation rights to more than 100,000 health care workers at the VA.

“Make no mistake, this is an attempt to silence the voices of VA employees at a time when such oversight is more critical than ever,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., who was a psychiatric nurse at the VA for more than 20 years. “Clinicians safely communicate concerns about patient safety, access to care, and staffing shortages to their union representatives, who then work to address those issues with management. Silencing their voices endangers our veterans.”

Legislation introduced in the House and Senate (HR 1133, S 462) would reverse the administration’s directive and restore equal workplace rights to VA Title 38 health care professionals. AFGE strongly supports this legislation.

“VA employees have veterans’ best interests at heart – many are veterans themselves. But this administration is doing everything it can to undermine the workforce and keep workers from speaking out,” Ward-Smith said. “How many more veterans must suffer before something is done?”

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