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Flake’s Serve Veterans First Act would bar union pay to VA employees

(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — The treatment of veterans was a big topic in the presidential campaign, and has been a big issue in the Valley for years.

A whistleblower uncovered a waitlist scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital where some veterans were forced to wait weeks or even months for care, which in some cases resulted in death.

While the aftermath remains getting sorted out, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) wants to make sure Veterans Affairs employees aren’t being treated while veterans are still trying to get care.

Flake introduced the Serve Veterans First Act on Thursday, which is legislation that ensures no VA employee is paid for union or labor-organizing activities while veterans are facing long wait times for medical treatment.

“The VA should not pay employees for union work while veterans are forced to wait for medical care,” Flake said. “The VA exists to serve veterans and their families, period. If that wasn’t apparent to some VA employees, the Serve Veterans First Act will make it crystal clear.”

Flake’s office said the Government Accountability Office found veterans’ department employees used almost 1.1 million federal work hours for official union activities in 2015, which included 346 employees spending 100 percent of their working hours on those activities.

Flake’s office added that in 2014, the Veterans Affairs spent nearly $50 million on official union time.

President Donald Trump recently signed a bill that will protect whistleblowers at the VA, among other provisions.

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