Arrington's VET Protection Act Passes Committee
LUBBOCK - Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Chairman Jodey Arrington’s (TX-19) bill to reform VA union rules, and ensure employees use time to care for veterans, passed through the Veterans’ Affairs Committee today. This is a key legislative step toward full House passage.
H.R. 1461, the Veterans, Employees and Taxpayer (VET) Protection Act, would require the VA to track and limit the time employees spend on union activities. Specifically, H.R. 1461 would prohibit employees involved with direct patient care from spending any of their time on union activities and any VA employee from spending more than 25% of their time on union activities. This legislation would also put an end to forcing VA employees to pay union dues, giving them the freedom to opt out at any time. Lastly, Congressman Arrington’s bill would extend the probationary period for VA employees from 12 months to 24 months—giving VA management additional tools to hold their employees accountable.
Arrington says, “At a time when thousands of our nation’s heroes have waited months for care, some possibly dying for lack of service, it is outrageous and unthinkable to know that hundreds of VA employees spend 100 percent of their time on union activity – and not the job they were hired to do. Holding the VA accountable for serving our veterans – not themselves – is not a Republican or Democrat ideal, it’s a basic expectation of every taxpaying American.”
Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Phil Roe, praised Arrington’s efforts on the legislation.
“The mission of the VA isn’t to take care of unions; it’s to take care of veterans. This legislation will ensure that the well-being of our heroes is prioritized above all else, and I thank subcommittee chairman Arrington for his leadership on this issue.”
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) has endorsed the bill.
“During work hours, VA employees should be focused solely on taking care of veterans – not doing the bidding of unions. Unions are often directly responsible for blocking the same measures that will help the VA hold bad employees accountable and fix the toxic culture at the department. The VA exists to protect the lives of veterans, not to keep unions operational. We urge Congress to give this important legislation the consideration it deserves. Making sure VA employees are doing VA work on the VA’s dime should be a no-brainer,” said CVA Executive Director, Mark Lucas.
Lubbock veteran, Colonel David J. Lewis, USAF (Retired), in support of Arrington’s legislation says, “This is exactly the kind of accountability we need from our federal agencies and precisely how our elected officials can insist on accountability. Access to timely healthcare for our veterans is reaching a crisis level, and requires an ‘All Hands on Deck’ approach to address these needs, especially in mental health. We must look for ways to reduce the bureaucracy and get our veterans the care they earned. I'm proud of Congressman Arrington's willingness to tackle this issue head on.”
Background: Under VA’s current union agreements, union members can use “official time” to conduct union business such as working on employee grievances, addressing bargaining issues and some lobbying efforts while being paid by VA. A Government Accountability Office report found that more than 340 VA employees, including numerous high level health care providers, spend 100% of their time working on union duties instead of the work VA hired them to do. What’s more, VA does not have a standardized system to track how much time its employees spend doing union work.