Brown introduces bill to protect VA workers, patients

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation to ensure that all VA health care workers have a voice in their workplace and are free to advocate for their patients, without fear of retaliation.

The VA Employee Fairness Act of 2024 would ensure that VA’s Title 38 health care professionals—including nurses, physicians, dentists, and physician assistants who serve our veterans — have the same workplace rights currently granted to other VA clinicians and federal employees. By providing full collective bargaining rights to these health care professionals, VA will be better equipped to retain and recruit top tier staff to care for our nation’s veterans and empower VA staff to speak up about patient safety concerns.

“All VA health care workers should have a voice in the workplace and the freedom to advocate for their patients. It’s good for workers, and it’s good for veterans,” said Brown. “This legislation will allow the VA to recruit the most talented staff, and allow these essential workers to advocate for patient safety and improved health care, which will ensure that the VA is doing its job serving those who sacrificed so much to serve us.”

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While VA employees have had collective bargaining rights since 1991, health care providers are exempted from collective bargaining on matters of professional conduct or competence, peer-review, or changes to employee compensation. As a result, they are prevented from raising grievances about staffing shortages that undermine patient care or negotiating for competitive pay that will attract health care workers to the VA. The VA Employee Fairness Act removes this exemption, and grants front line health care providers their full collective bargaining rights.

Brown’s legislation is supported by the by National Nurses United, the American Federation of Government Employees, National Federation of Federal Employees, National Association of Government Employees and Service Employees International Union.