September 14, 2006
Jemarion Jones (202) 639-6405

Veterans Affairs Union Official Testifies on VBA Training and Performance Standards

(Washington)—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents nearly 150,000 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) workers, today offered testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs about the growing problems facing veterans service representatives (VSRs) and rating specialists charged with adjudicating claims for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA).

Speaking on behalf of AFGE, National Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox testified that inadequate training and confusing performance standards are contributing to decision making inconsistencies and hampering the efforts of VSRs and rating specialists to provide veterans with accurate, timely claims decisions.

To alleviate the problem, Cox offered the following recommendations:

Establish a joint labor/management team to develop a formal national training plan with a clearly defined curriculum.
Develop a cadre of effective, competent trainers with formalized training skills and adequate subject matter expertise.

Revise current performance standards to enable VSRs to adequately develop claims and receive needed training.
Establish a national training program designed to teach the subject areas and skills needed to pass the Skills Certification Test.

In his testimony, Cox also expressed concern about what AFGE sees as management’s unwillingness to work with stakeholders about training and performance standards.

“We believe that all stakeholders—including employee representatives and veterans groups—should have input into the design of training programs and information about how well these programs are working in different [VBA regional offices] around the country,” said Cox. “Similarly, stakeholders need a voice in developing and monitoring the certification testing process and production quotas. Flawed training and performance standards lead to processing delays and more appeals, and most importantly, impact every veteran filing a claim with VBA.”

Cox emphasized that “training is an investment worth making,” and that “to do otherwise would be a great disservice to veterans.”

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