Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (VA), has requested that all VA employees performing “official time” or union work, return to tending to VA affairs. With 271 employees devoted solely to working on union businesss, the Department of Veterans Affairs employs the largest number of “official time” employees. Mark Flatten has the story in the Washington Examiner.
The IG found “inappropriate scheduling practices are systemic” throughout the Veterans Health Administration, the VA division that delivers health care.
Miller cited 174 veterans’ health officials whose only job is to serve as union representatives. Official time allows civil servants who are also federal employee union officials to do union work full-time while drawing regular government pay and benefits.
VA is by far the largest user of official time. It paid its top union employees more than $42.5 million to do almost 1 million hours of union work in 2011, the last year for which figures are available from the Office of Personnel Management.
The veterans’ agency listed 271 employees who were on full-time release in 2012, including 174 health care workers. VA was unable to give a breakdown of hours or a list of other employees released from their jobs on less than a full-time basis.
“I respectfully request that you act without delay to issue an emergency directive requiring the immediate reassignment of all VA health care workers currently on official time to health care positions within the department where the need is greatest,” Miller said in his letter to Gibson.
“If you are limited in your authority to act on this request by current union rules, contracts or collective bargaining agreements, I ask that you take the request directly to the heads of the unions of jurisdiction,” Miller said.
Miller also asked for a complete accounting of the number of VA health care employees working full-time on union business.
The OPM report does not give details beyond total hours, total cost and broad categories describing how the time was used.
Though VA was unable to comply, it did provide a list of people on full-time release, including those working in the VHA and employees who process disability benefits claims.
The Examiner’s investigation found 20 VA employees who make more than $100,000 per year working full-time for their unions.
The amounts of official time allowed by each agency are negotiated in collective bargaining agreements with the government employee unions.
A VA spokesman who asked not to be identified said the department has received Miller’s letter and is preparing a response.
Officials with the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest public employees’ union, did not respond to an Examiner request for comment.