Cause for Concern; VA’s Union Underworld

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned due to negligent oversight of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, but the root of the problem goes deeper than just Mr. Shinseki and the publicized scandal in Arizona. 

Last Friday, COGC’s Executive Director Mattie Duppler was an in-studio guest on the BlazeTV’s Real News debating the core problems of the VA. Mattie explains that issue cannot be resolved by simply firing corrupt employees (although that could be a start) because the VA is one of the largest federal employers with over 300,000 employees.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact cause for the VA’s tragic carelessness, but there is one reason that could explain the department’s failure to veterans: workers' unions.

In 2010, when Secretary Shinseki still had his job, he bragged that over two-thirds of the VA’s workforce was unionized.

“That’s a whopping 200,000 union members, represented by the likes of the American Federation of Government Employees and the Service Employees International Union. And this is government-run healthcare—something unions know a lot about from organizing health workers in the private sector,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel.

COGC has already noted the unreasonably high salaries at the Phoenix VA, and the absurdity extends across the entire VA. Citing Manhattan Institute scholar Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Strassel explains that “the VA in 2012 paid 258 employees to be 100% ‘full-time,’ receiving full pay and benefits to do only union work. Seventeen had six-figure salaries, up to $132,000.” This means that public-sector unions are currently exploiting taxpayer dollars for their blatant political activities to the detriment of the nation’s service men and women.

In a 2013 letter written by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) addressed to Mr. Shinseki stated, “it is essential that every VA employee is dedicated 100 percent to our nation’s mission of providing the best healthcare to our veterans in a timely manner. Recently, it has come to our attention that a number of VA employees are paid government salaries, funded entirely by taxpayers, to perform work totally unrelated to their formal governmental duties…taxpayers pay for federal employees to perform union duties instead of their formal jobs they were initially hired to do.”  

Intervening workers' unions have plagued the VA’s staff at the cost of providing veterans with sound, reliable, and timely healthcare. With two-thirds of the VA’s staff partaking in union activity funded by taxpayers' money, the department’s failure to veterans can, at least in part, be attributed to the union’s domineering philosophy that favors bureaucracy over the care of veterans.

TAGS: Spending, Transparency, issues

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