Today, Florida congressman Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure its health-care workers are serving veterans instead of doing union work on the taxpayer dime.
An aide at the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs confirmed that Miller’s letter was in direct response to a National Review Online report last week about 174 nurses, mental-health specialists, therapists, and other health-care professionals who earned at least $11.4 million from the VA in 2012—for work done full-time for the union; despite their health-care training, these VA workers did not treat or care for veterans.
“This news is especially puzzling since it comes amid a department wide delays in medical care scandal and additional media reports that the VA is currently struggling to fill some 2,000 job openings for health care professionals across the country,” Miller wrote. “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 [union] time to health care positions within the department where the need is greatest.”
If the VA’s union obligations prohibited such an order, Miller said, the VA should “take the request directly to the heads of unions of jurisdiction.”
Miller also asked the VA to provide the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs with “a complete account of the number of VA health care employees currently working full time doing union business, appended with job title, salary information and place of employment.”
That data will be interesting if he can get it—in 2011, the last year on record, the VA paid for nearly 100,000 hours of work for taxpayer-funded employees working full-time or part-time on union business.
— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.