WASHINGTON, July 24, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today sent a letter to U.S. Senators strongly urging them to support S. 1856, legislation introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Ranking Member of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. The legislation would establish highly effective tools to increase VA accountability while protecting whistleblowers and other employees harmed by retaliation, discrimination and other prohibited personnel practices when they speak up against mismanagement. In the union's letter, AFGE also expressed strong opposition to S. 1082, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio.
AFGE is gravely concerned about widespread misperceptions regarding the need for Senator Rubio's bill. Rather than promote accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) the union believes this legislation will reduce accountability by stripping due process rights away from every non-management employee, including every VA whistleblower and more than 100,000 veterans in the VA workforce.
"The myths and misinformation circulating around the halls of Congress regarding accountability at the VA are unbelievable," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "The fact is that it wasn't doctors, nurses or other rank and file employees that kept secret wait lists – it was management. Why should honest doctors and nurses lose their fundamental rights at work because of management's failures? Sadly, some of our elected officials will stop at nothing to eliminate the due process rights of dedicated VA employees, regardless of whether it hurts accountability. VA employees are committed to providing world-class care to our nation's heroes and should not live in fear that making lifesaving disclosures about patient harm and other mismanagement could lead to their termination."
In contrast, Ranking Member Blumenthal's legislation addresses the need for greater accountability through a multi-faceted, commonsense approach to VA reform that preserves essential due process rights and allows VA employees to continue to speak up against mismanagement. S. 1856 carves out an exception to current civil service protections when an employee presents a clear and direct threat to public health. It also reduces mismanagement by curtailing a widespread revolving door problem in the VA and improving management training and performance measures.
"S. 1856 is the plan for accountability that Congress should support," said Cox. "Making public servants at-will employees does nothing to create systematic and cultural change at VA facilities across the country. The notion that pushing dedicated workers out the door on the whim of arbitrary managers increases accountability is a flimsy argument. S. 1856 is a critical step in the direction of creating meaningful change at the VA."
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. AFGE's National Veterans Affairs Council represents 220,000 employees within the Department of Veterans Affairs. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees