VA accused of excessive outsourcing of vets' jobs

The Veterans Affairs Department is being accused of undermining its own goal of hiring more veterans by expanding its outsourcing practices that eliminate many federal jobs currently, or historically, held by veterans, according to the union representing 205,000 employees at the VA.

In November, President Barack Obama signed into law the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act,” which included language to set up an expedited process for hiring returning solders for federal jobs.

But the VA’s own outsourcing, which began to grow under the Bush Administration and are continuing to expand, are abolishing many federal jobs currently held by veterans, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), an AFL-CIO union, said in a Feb. 8 news release.

For example, the Veterans Benefits Administration recently entered into a $54 million three-year contract with ACS Government Systems to perform claims processing work.

That work currently is being performed by “large numbers of veterans,” the union said. “To add insult to injury, the VBA employees are being asked to volunteer to train the contractors to do their work.”

“Contract claims processors working for profit will now handle the most personal information of our veterans.” AFGE National President John Gage said in the release.

In several other outsourcing contracts in recent years, the VA also has gotten rid of many government jobs historically held by veterans, AFGE said.

Other jobs recently outsourced by VA medical centers and cemeteries, which historically had been held by veterans, included cemetery caretakers, laundry and food service workers, housekeepers, groundskeepers and transportation assistants.

The VA also has failed to comply with a 2009 law that requires the agency to do a cost-benefit analysis before each outsourcing contract is awarded, to determine whether the contract is cost-effective for taxpayers, the union said.

“The agency continues to violate federal law by contracting out work that has been traditionally performed by veterans,” the union said. “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 union also claimed the VA conducts “excessive contracting” of physician and nursing services rather than hiring clinicians from within the military.

“Contract physicians and nurses lack the specialized skills and best practices of clinicians who dedicate their lives to serving the veteran population as VA employees,” said AFGE National VA Council President Alma Lee.

VA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Feb. 9.

Complaints about VA outsourcing have arisen on a regular basis in recent years. In 2009, the president reversed course on a proposed third-party billing initiative for veterans medical care following negative media attention about it.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Feb 15, 2012 Eddie E

seriously, an article that is based wholly on a press release from a union -- talk about a crack job of reporting . . .

Tue, Feb 14, 2012

AirForce 1985 is right about the VA. I am a service connected disabled Army Vet myself and a VA employee. The VA is one of the most corrupt, downright evil places I have ever seen in a non combat role. I can't believe the way many of my fellow employees feel towards my brother and sister vets. The folks I am speaking about should NOT be employeed at the VA (but they are the ones that get the promotions and end up in charge).

Mon, Feb 13, 2012 Paul

AirForce1985, I would look into the lack of preference as those positions are federal and should be subject to vet preference. My father worked on a NOAA ships out of Seattle as an AB seaman for a long time and given the quality of some of the folks he did get, I don't see how they could deny you for service based on what you wrote. My dad had more than a few minor disabilities from working on the ship with no issues for employment. I believe it falls under WG, which I'm not familiar with, but still should get you something. If you're a qualified seaman, I would talk with the union hall about it.

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 AirForce1985 Bellevue, Washington

I have applied to NOAA which operates research ships under the US Dept. of Commerce. I was told by their HR Dept. in Seattle. That Disabled Veterans/Veterans nor Disabled Persons are not given priority in hiring for positions aboard, their 17 ships. I am a Veteran, 10% service connected for tinnitus. Still fighting to be service connected for depression, anxiety, Crohn's Disease and PTSD. In spite of these conditions, I have fulfilled the US Coast Guard requirements. As such have all documents, etc. for working as a merchant marine. The above conditions are "stable", not to mention my PTSD, is not a danger to anyone.I have worked off and on in the merchant marine since 2000. It is very insulting to be told my military service and "disabilities" mean nothing. Though I am more than qualified, worked on deck, engine room and galley. The entry level position with NOAA, states a person could be assigned in any of these areas. In regards to the VA, the latest survey suggests, only 20-30% of it's workers are Veterans! I distinctly feel whenever I have gone to the Seattle VA hospital or American Lake in Tacoma. That I am there for the benefit of the workers. Their lack of respect and service in good faith, disturbs me. Only a few nurses, I have any respect for, why? For the genuine respect they have given me. Also, the medical care you receive, is based on the wonderful Western Medicine, medication or surgery. Alternative healhcare which is based on curing you, not just treating your symptoms, is absent. And the "mental health care" is dysfunctional in the least, corrupt at the most.

Fri, Feb 10, 2012

I am a director of a VA IT organization and I am PROUD to say that we have a majority percentage of veterans (myself included) on our staff...both VA and contract staff. Our contracting firms are SDVOSBs. Having mostly veterans creates an awesome team with a "can do" attitude.

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