(Released by the AFGE) – Last November President Obama signed into law the “Vow to Hire Heroes Act” designed to increase employment opportunities for America’s veterans. But a key provision in the act creating an expedited process for hiring returning soldiers for federal jobs is being undermined by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – the very agency responsible for improving veterans’ lives.
The VA hires more veterans than any other federal agency except the Department of Defense. However, according to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the AFL-CIO union that represents over 205,000 VA employees, the agency continues to violate federal law by contracting out work that has been traditionally performed by veterans. The outsourced jobs include many entry level jobs that disabled veterans rely on to get back on their feet after returning from the battlefield.
The process began during the Bush Administration, when the number of VA hospitals and cemeteries that outsourced work historically performed by veterans skyrocketed. Jobs that embodied the tradition of “veterans helping veterans,” such as cemetery caretakers, laundry and food service workers, housekeepers, groundskeepers, and transportation assistants, disappeared as more and more contractors were handed the work without the required studies to show whether contracting out was cost-effective to taxpayers.
Unfortunately, under the Obama Administration, the illegal outsourcing of entry-level VA jobs has become more prevalent. Recently, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) entered into a $54 million, three-year contract with ACS Government Systems, a major contractor in the federal sector, for claims processing work currently performed by large numbers of veterans. ACS will develop disability and pension claims, help VBA convert to a paperless system, and conduct outreach to encourage more veterans to file claims online. To add insult to injury, the VBA employees are being asked to volunteer to train the contractors to do their work. (read more)