“Federal employees not serving veterans during official time could lead to the failure of VA’s top goals and the well-being of those who have sacrificed in the service of our nation could be compromised,” Coburn and Portman wrote.This complaint is only newish and not entirely new in the sense that Republicans often pull up time spent on union-related functions in attacks on public workers; the specific application of the complaint to VA backlogs is just opportunistic.
The senators said documents from the agency show 188 employees “in 100 percent official time capacity” from Jan. 1, 2012, to February 2013.” They include, Coburn and Portman wrote, a wide variety of health care providers, including nurses, addiction specialists, pharmacists, psychologists and others.
The reality is this: Official time cannot be used for internal union business; according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, it's used for things like "participat[ing] in labor-management workgroups," "facilitat[ing] implementation of new workplace initiatives that enhance employees’ ability to effectively serve the public," and "represent[ing] employees in grievances and disciplinary actions." Things that help the workplace operate smoothly, in other words. In fiscal year 2011, official time came to 4.02 hours per VA bargaining unit employee.
But for Republicans, anything to blame problems on union workers rather than on an overloaded Department of Veterans Affairs thanks to George W. Bush's wars.