FLASHBACK: VA Spent $5 MILLION on Conferences to Train Employees on Union Contract


The federal incompetence that is on display in the VA scandal is common place. It’s the nature of government.

Consider this from 2012 by the Washington Examiner:

Conferences to train Department of Veterans Affairs employees on provisions of a union contract cost taxpayers more than $5 million last year, according to documents obtained by The Washington Examiner.

Travel and other expenses to send about 2,100 VA employees to more than two dozen such events totaled $5.3 million, but those costs were only some of the many perks the department agreed to pay for under the agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

In addition, federal employees who are union officials and who participate in the training conferences were not required to use “official time” allotted to AFGE in the March 2011 bargaining pact.

Official time requires the government to pay union officials their full salary and benefits even though they work exclusively on union activities. The VA spent an estimated $34 million in 2010 on official time, the most by far of any federal department or agency, according to a report by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Only government could spend that kind of money and devote that many employee hours to an activity so irrelevant to its mission. This is further proof the enterprise is designed to serve the employees, not its customers.

SHOCK: VA Employees Spent WHOPPING 998,483 ‘Official’ Hours on Union Business in 2011


The American Federation of Government Employees – the union representing Veterans Administration workers – used the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to call for the hiring of more employees.

“Our rank-and-file members have sounded the alarm on poor management practices and inadequate staffing time and time again,” an AFGE press statement read.

But a review of data published by the Office of Personnel Management may indict both management and the union.

In 2011 – the last year the office published such numbers – employees of the VA reported spending 998,483 “official” hours on union business. That is to say, they spent taxpayer-funded work time furthering their union’s objectives instead of serving veterans.

Remarkably, that was a 23.3 percent increase over 2010’s 809,740 hours.

The VA employees far-and-away spent the most official time on union business of any federal agency. The next closest was the Treasury Department, which includes IRS employees. Those employees racked up 625,704 hours that year.

Perhaps if the VA wants to get serious about “understaffing,” it can divert some of those taxpayer-funded union hours to actually helping veterans.