The Veterans Affairs Department has a simple but crucial mission that quotes a promise by Abraham Lincoln to veterans “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.”
Unfortunately, Veterans Affairs has not done a good job living up to this mission lately. Just a few years ago it was widely widely reported that thousands of veterans died waiting for care. This is unacceptable. The agency has also callously allowed countless Veterans Affairs medical professionals to perform union business rather than serve veterans. The kicker is that this union business is done at the expense of taxpayers.
This practice, known as official time, is not cheap, either. In a report on its costs, the Office of Personnel Management estimated that Veterans Affairs employees spent more than one million hours on union matters rather than serving veterans. These activities include lobbying Congress, attending conventions, and filing grievances. In 2016, official time at Veterans Affairs cost $49 million. These are estimates that likely lowball the hours and costs spent on official time.
A Government Accountability Office report last year on official time use at Veterans Affairs found the agency lacks proper tracking and recording methods. For example, Veterans Affairs does not collect reliable data on official time. Instead, it uses estimates and or other methods to calculate official time. Because of inaccurate reporting, the amount of official time used or what activities were performed could not be determined. What we do know is that these federal employees were not serving veterans.
Read the full article on The Hill.