May 26, 2015
By Neal Tepel
Washington, DC – Concerned that gaps in federal whistleblower laws are failing to protect some Veterans Administration whistleblowers, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is urging Congress to take aggressive action to shield employees.
"As VA whistleblower legislative proposals are considered in the House and Senate, it is important to remember that President Obama already signed into law a powerful set of protections for federal employee whistleblowers; the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act," AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma Lee recently said. "Instead of taking away the appeal rights of front-line employees, Congress should close the remaining gaps in current whistleblower law to make sure every VA employee receives equal protection against retaliation by management."
AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government. AFGE's National Veterans Affairs Council represents 220,000 employees within the Department of Veterans Affairs.
At a recent hearing, Congressman Tim Walz [D-MN] urged fellow Committee members to "ensure that every employee is covered equally so that the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board have the resources to do all the cases for these brave individuals."
AFGE has called on lawmakers to reject H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015, as well as other proposals that strip every VA employee of basic workplace protections, and instead, enact alternative reforms that hold managers accountable for retaliation and provide whistleblowers with adequate representation.
In backing Congressman Walz’ efforts to encourage lawmakers to protect vulnerable employees, AFGE’s leadership said, "Keep in mind, if we do things that undermine their ability to be represented in the workplace, there's nowhere else for them to turn and we turn the leverage back to that poor management."
AFGE Council President Lee also praised Congressman Walz for his May 4, letter to the union stating that while "we must work to improve accountability systems and encourage transparency at the VA…this should not come at the cost of VA employees' rights and protections."