Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the bill in the Senate.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the bill in the Senate. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Democrats Push to Grant VA Medical Professionals Full Union Rights

Federal law currently prevents Veterans Affairs Department medical workers from bargaining over matters related to patient care and clinical competence, although much is at the discretion of the VA secretary.

Democrats in both the House and Senate are pushing to expand the collective bargaining rights of medical professionals at the Veterans Affairs Department to match those of workers throughout the rest of the federal government.

Unlike most federal workers, who are hired under Title 5 of the U.S. Code, medical workers at the VA are Title 38 employees. Under that section of federal law, employees have the right to unionize, but they cannot bargain over matters related to “direct patient care” or “clinical competence.”

In addition, it is entirely up to the VA secretary which issues fall under those two exceptions to employees’ bargaining rights.

“An issue of whether a matter or question concerns or arises out of professional conduct or competence, peer review or the establishment, determination or adjustment of employee compensation under this title shall be decided by the secretary and is not itself subject to collective bargaining and may not be reviewed by any other agency,” the law states.

During the Trump administration, former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie took an expansive approach to the concept of patient care and competence, completely eliminating Title 38 employees’ access to official time spent on representational duties.

On Tuesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced the VA Employee Fairness Act (S. 771), a bill that would remove the direct patient care and clinical competency exceptions from Title 38, effectively granting VA medical professionals the same collective bargaining rights most employees already have elsewhere in the federal government.

“The nurses, physicians, dentists, physician assistants and other health care workers at our nation’s VA medical centers, many of whom are veterans themselves, are the best at what they do,” Brown said in a statement. “Expanding the right to collectively bargain is one of the most important tools we can use to empower these workers and ensure they have a voice in the workplace.”

“Thanks to VA’s talented health care professionals, VA offers some of the best health care in the world,” Takano said. “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, VA’s doctors, nurses and medical professionals even stepped up to serve all Americans. However, many of these providers still don’t have key workplace rights that are standard across the federal government. If we’re going to fill VA’s 39,000 vacancies, we need to ensure VA can continue to recruit and retain top tier medical professionals and provide exemplary care for our nation’s veterans.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley, whose union represents VA employees, said the bill would be a correction to the strongarm tactics employed by the previous presidential administration.

“The restrictions placed upon doctors’ and nurses’ union rights have always been unwarranted,” Kelley said. “Two years ago, the previous administration went further and stripped medical professionals of almost all of their union rights as part of its larger union-busting agenda. It is critical that Congress pass the VA Employee Fairness Act to ensure that all VA workers who have elected union representation have a voice in the workplace, regardless of their job title.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.