May 6, 2017
By AFGE President J. David Cox Sr.
Washington, DC – In response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:
“We fully support and appreciate new tools to ensure the correct response to mismanagement, bad managers, and underperforming employees at the VA. When employees are found to have engaged in misconduct or performance that fails to meet the highest standards required by the VA, they should be terminated.
AFGE members and veterans gathered at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System to rally against the proposed closing of VA medical centers nationwide.
“This order addresses the potential bad actors and chronically underperforming managers, reduces layers of management, and allocates new resources to protect employees who report mismanagement and other risks to veterans – all of which are supported by AFGE.
“But, we are concerned that so-called accountability legislation introduced by Sen. Rubio of Florida that is also supported by the administration will destroy the best accountability tools: the voices of frontline workers – and potentially turn the VA into an at-will workforce that could lead to the agency’s demise.
“Any new office created by this order must be staffed by individuals who are free of political affiliation and can render bias-free judgments, and can only be effective if the frontline employees who want to come forward with their concerns keep their due process rights and rights under their collective bargaining agreements.
“The VA – and all federal agencies – must present evidence that misconduct or performance failure has occurred. And those who judge that evidence must be an impartial third party. If those conditions are not met, we risk harming the innocent and encourage corruption and politicization of the agency – consciously or not.
“Time and again it’s the frontline employees who have come forward and spoken up against management covering up wait times. We cannot risk providing cover for incompetent or malicious managers.
“Veterans care is paramount to the focus of the VA – including the one-third of the workforce who are veterans themselves. All future actions must consider the needs of the veterans being cared for at the hospital, as well as those who work there. Although this is a positive step toward improving veterans’ care, there are still 45,000 vacancies that must be addressed.”
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government.