Health

Congress Wants To Cut Union Power For VA Employees

| by Ray Brown

Republicans in the United States Congress want to make it easier to fire "bad apples" from the Department of Veterans Affairs by reducing employees' union power.

According to the Washington Examiner, Congress will vote on legislation that makes it easier to fire, demote and strip bonus awards from "corrupt or negligent officials, which was proposed by Republican Rep. Phil Rowe of Tennessee.

"I've said time and time again that the vast majority of the employees at the VA are hardworking and have the best interests of our veterans at heart, but there are still too many bad apples within the department," Roe said in February, according to the Washington Examiner. "Our veterans deserve better, and the VA employees who fulfill their duties deserve better."

But according to the U.S. military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, the bill is essentially a union-busting measure.

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Current VA employees who are facing a disciplinary measure can issue a complaint with their union, which then allows the issue to be resolved through collective bargaining, the paper reported.

But the bill pushed by Republicans would eliminate that option.

The legislation is backed by VA Secretary David Shulkin.

"I’m working now, closely, with the Congress, both the House and the Senate, to make sure we have an accountability bill that allows us to make sure that if people shouldn’t be working in the VA, they won’t be working in the VA," Shulkin told Fox News, according to GovExec, in February.

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Shulkin went on to say that people doing inappropriate activities while at work will be let go from their jobs under the new legislation.

"People who don’t show up to work, who do cocaine, who are watching porn at work are going to be fired because I’m not going to tolerate it and they’re going to be out of our system," he said, adding: "When you have one or two or three people not doing their job, they bring everybody down."

It has not been reported how many VA employees were doing cocaine or watching porn while on the job, but complaints about the efficacy of the VA has been an ongoing issue for the past several years.

In 2014, legislation to more easily fire VA employees was passed by Congress, but the VA stopped enforcing it, according to Stars and Stripes. 

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama cut $1.4 billion from the VA budget, according to the VA website.

Sources: Washington Examiner, Fox News via GovExec, Stars and Stripes, VA / Photo credit: Veterans Health/Flickr

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