Union Urges Congress to Oppose Bill to Cut Pay of VA Front-Line Physicians and Dentists
May 28, 2014 - 7:57:49 PM

H.R. 4399 would devastate recruitment and retention of front-line clinicians providing care to veterans

(  - WASHINGTON, May 28, 2014  -- The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) issued a letter to members of Congress urging them to oppose H.R. 4399, which will be debated on the House floor this week.  This legislation would make drastic and unnecessary changes to the pay of physicians and dentists working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). As a result, the agency's ability to recruit and retain front-line clinicians would be severely impacted.

"Amid current debates regarding access and accountability it is clear that the VA is suffering from shortages of health care providers," said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. "The last thing the VA needs is legislation that would make it harder to fix the widespread vacancy crisis in the physician and dentist workforce. In addition, the VA's plan to contract out more care and force existing providers to continue to do more with less only hinders the agency's ability to provide specialized care to our veterans."

"A vital piece in honoring the commitment to provide care to our nation's heroes is ensuring we have the providers to meet the needs of our veterans. This bill puts in jeopardy the agency's ability to recruit and retain clinicians looking to serve in the VA; effectively limiting the number of providers on the front lines of patient care," continued Cox.

Bill provisions that would reduce performance and market pay undermine clear Congressional intent to make the VA more competitive with other health care employers when it overhauled the VA physician and dentist pay system ten years ago. In addition, the bill would unfairly evaluate front-line clinicians providing direct care to veterans based on performance measures intended for managers responsible for organization wide outcomes.

"Not only is the use of management performance measures demoralizing to the front-line physician struggling with burgeoning patient panels and exhausting work schedules, but VA's use of improper performance measures represents a missed opportunity to drive improvements to patient care," said Cox.

"As we look to make improvements to the system charged with taking care of our veterans, we should not be distracted by attempts to short-change the public servants working tirelessly to provide vets the care they deserve," said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee. "H.R. 4399 calls for untested changes to the current pay system for front-line clinicians and imposes a senseless 2.5% pay cut on providers working directly with our veterans each and every day."

AFGE recommends deferring legislative action to allow long overdue Congressional oversight of ongoing efforts by the VA to improve the current physician/dentist pay system; a move supported by the veterans' Independent Budget. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office also recommended specific agency action to improve the physician pay system.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

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