WASHINGTON, April 24, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 220,000 employees across the Department of Veterans Affairs, is strongly opposed to legislation introduced by House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller that would erode job protections for VA employees.
"Chairman Miller's so-called VA Accountability Act would actually make the VA less accountable to veterans by removing vital workplace protections that have shielded employees who have blown the whistle on mismanagement and cover-ups by political appointees," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.
Miller's legislation would:
Strip employees of virtually all job protections, including frontline employees who have faced retaliation for coming forward with allegations of mismanagement;
Allow nearly "at will" dismissals with immediate loss of all pay for all employees, including large numbers of service-connected disabled veterans in clerk, housekeeper and cemetery caretaker jobs supporting their families on less than $30,000 a year;
Extend probationary periods for all VA employees who currently have one-year probationary periods, that direct supervisors can extend even further;
Add to the Office of Special Counsel's growing workload by giving the agency a second review of decisions by the VA secretary to fire or demote employees, something that is not currently part of OSC's mission.
"Chairman Miller's legislation targets the very workers who have risked their jobs to testify on management abuses, some of whom before the chairman's own committee," National VA Council President Alma Lee said.
"We need more protections for front-line employees, not fewer. Under the current one-year probationary period, Tomah VA Medical Center pharmacist Noelle Johnson was fired after speaking out against the chief of staff," Lee said. "Yet Chairman Miller wants to extend the probationary period even longer, making it less likely that employees like Ms. Johnson will be willing to speak out."
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.