AFGE Local 2004
American Federation of Government Employees
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Monthly Meeting Alert
Our next Monthly Meeting will be on Tuesday June 20th
please come out to our meeting we will also be hosting a cookout.
Time: 2:00PM – 5:00PM
Date: June 20th
Location: Union Hall building 286
News & Updates
Local and National
New EPA Administrator Making EPA Great for Polluters, Bad for Workers
Scott Pruitt will make America great again for polluters.
On June 15, the controversial administrator of the Environment Protection Agency testified before Congress for the first time since his confirmation, insisting that deep cuts to programs that protect Americans against air, water, and land pollution are needed.
Pruitt wants to slash EPA’s 2018 budget by 31%, or about $2.6 billion, and get rid of Click here to Read More
“It is absolutely outrageous to me that Administrator Pruitt supports a 31 percent cut to the EPA. It’s the only agency that keeps America’s air clean and drinking water safe,” AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said after Scott’s testimony. “How can he think that reducing more than 25 percent of the agency’s workforce, cutting essential programs, and rolling back common sense protections will help citizens of this country?”
It won’t. But that’s the point.
Pruitt spent his entire career fighting against clean air and water regulations on behalf of polluters. As Oklahoma attorney general, he used his office as an extension of an oil company and sued the EPA 14 times.
Cox asks Congress to reject this absurd destruction of the EPA.
“If we want to continue to protect generations of Americans from air- and water-borne illnesses, we must fight against the President’s 2018 budget, and save the EPA,” he said.
“EPA has saved countless lives. Any further cuts will absolutely cripple the agency,” said AFGE EPA Council President John O’Grady. The council represents more than 9,000 employees nationwide.
Call your lawmakers right now
Call (844) 669-5146 and tell your lawmakers to reject the EPA cuts. Tell them what you do on behalf of the constituents in their district and ask them to oppose these cuts.
The online Rubik’s Cube solver program will help you find the solution for your unsolved puzzle
Source: AFGE National Website
Veterans Organizations Defend VA, Bash “Choice” Privatization Plan
June 16, 2017
As Congress and the administration are expanding the use of private, for-profit hospitals under the so-called Choice program, organizations that represent veterans are making it clear that the Choice program should continue to be just a temporary fix and that they are against the privatization of the VA.
“The American Legion supports a strong VA that relies on outside care as little as possible andClick here to Read More
“Even with the additional options of the Choice program, veterans in general overwhelmingly prefer to use VA,” Disabled American Veterans Deputy National Legislative Director Adrian Atizado testified at the same hearing. “DAV strongly urges this committee, Congress, and the administration to honor the clear preference of the vast majority of veterans who choose to use the VA health care system – a system created to meet their unique needs.”
Corporate interests like the Koch brothers and private hospital CEOs who have been pushing Congress to privatize the VA may have celebrated the expansion of the Choice program created “in response” to the waitlist scandal, but veterans organizations have a different take on this issue and the Choice program as a whole. Here’s what they have to say:
The expansion of the Choice program was based on false narratives.
Steele told Congress “False narratives instigated by political interests trashed the department in 2015 and 2016 and continued to feed the media’s insatiable appetite for scandal by spotlighting as many isolated incidents of malfeasance as they could find. Transparency is important and exposing criminal behavior is essential to good governance, but taken out of context this biased coverage fails to tell the more accurate story of an agency that serves millions of veterans every day with expert care. Hundreds of thousands of caring, well trained, and hghly competitive professionals stream through the doors of VA medical centers throughout this nation day in and day out for one purpose and one purpose only – to care for those who have borne the battle – and overall, they do an excellent job.”
The Choice program creates more problems for veterans.
In talking to veterans from coast to coast, the American Legion found that veterans who go to private hospitals for care under the Choice program face scheduling problems and thousands have returned to the VA because they couldn’t find a doctor or the doctor was too far away.
The organization also told Congress that Choice “instituted third party administrators, additional eligibility criteria, higher and inconsistent reimbursement rates, and a disconnected billing authority.” The law creating the program mandated the VA to issue paper Choice cards to every enrolled veteran that were “essentially worthless, wasting millions and millions of dollars on designing, procuring, and mailing millions of these cards in 90 days or less.”
Sending veterans off to for-profit hospitals without a well-crafted contract presents a huge and expensive problem for veterans. In order for the VA to be able to maintain complete and up-to-date treatment records of veterans, the Choice Act requires private sector doctors to return veterans’ medical records to the VA. The VA is not allowed to pay doctors if they fail to return those records. Many private doctors failed to return the records as they don’t think it’s important. As a result, the VA refused to pay the doctors. The doctors blamed the VA for not paying them. They billed veterans directly and refused to see any more VA patients until they got paid.
“This, among other reasons including unsustainable cost, is why Choice is not the answer,” said Steele.
Some veterans are even left paying out of their own pockets. According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, veterans were forced to pick up the tab when their Choice doctors performed treatments that are outside the scope of the Choice authorization.
The Choice Act has been amended twice, and the original contract has been modified more than 70 times, yet several issues remain, Atizado said. “DAV does not believe the Choice program should be expanded to new categories of veterans. While the Choice program relieves some of the demand for VA medical care, it does not have the necessary elements to serve as a solid foundation for the future of community care.”
The Choice program is more expensive than VA.
While the Choice program may appear to increase health care access for veterans, the VA can’t always use the authority to contract out patient care as “their budget could serve twice as many veterans if redirected toward organic campus care or already negotiated and established community care contracts,” Steele said.
“Even a limited expansion of the current eligibility for the Choice program would add significant costs at a time when demand for VA health care is already rising faster than resources provided by Congress,” Atizado said.
The VA operates under a tight budget as Congress and administrations never give it the amount of money it really needs. Some members of Congress have suggested that veterans should be free to choose between VA and private sector providers whenever they want – something the Veterans of Foreign Wars thinks is a bad idea.
“While this proposal may sound enticing, it is unsustainable because of cost and the VFW would overwhelmingly oppose any proposal to pass that cost onto veterans,” said VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes.
The Choice program could lead to an erosion of the VA.
Fuentes also expressed concerns over the administration’s request to make the Choice program a permanent mandatory program.
“VA’s medical care accounts are under discretionary spending and subject to sequestration budget caps. Having the Choice program as the only VA health care program not subject to spending caps could lead to a gradual erosion of the VA health care system,” he added.
Stop taking cheap shots at the VA if you want to improve the VA
If people want to improve the VA, the first thing they need to do is stop trashing the VA, especially when the agency is struggling to fill up to 49,000 vacancies.
“Stop taking cheap shots at our healthcare system. It’s hurting veterans, it’s hurting morale, and it’s killing VA’s recruiting efforts,” Steele told members of Congress. “If anyone thinks that killing VA will save taxpayer dollars, they are either woefully misinformed, delusional, or lying.”
Atizado said there are a number of things that Congress can do to help improve the VA, including addressing the widening salary gap between the VA and the private sector to allow the VA to attract the best and brightest to meet the increasing demand.
“While there are many factors that contributed to the access crisis, when there are not enough doctors, nurses, and other clinical professionals or enough useable treatment space to meet the rising demand for care by enrolled veterans, the result will inevitably be rationing of care, waiting lists, and access problems,” he added.
Source: AFGE National Website
Budget Cuts Will Make Your Next Flight Less Safe
June 09, 2017
On Nov. 1, 2013, a gunman opened fire with a rifle near a checkpoint in Terminal 3 of the Los Angeles Airport, killing TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez. Two other TSA officers and a civilian were injured. According to multiple reports, the gunman put his target squarely on TSA officers.
Around the world, terrorists have attacked Click here to Read More
TSA has taken some steps to address airport and checkpoint volume, but any new security measures put in place, albeit incomplete, could disappear if the Trump administration gets its way. Under the White House’s 2018 budget proposal, TSA is facing a budget cut of $500 million. The administration wants to eliminate the Behavior Detection Officer program – the only security fully integrated with TSA monitoring the area between ticketing and check-in. This is the area targeted by terrorists at the Brussels airport and others.
BDOs are trained to objectively spot actions leading to an attack, such as leaving a suitcase or pulling out a weapon.
“It is shortsighted to eliminate such as important component of airport security,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “The program needs to be expanded, not eliminated.”
Elimination of the BDO program is bad enough, but the administration also wants to eliminate TSA’s law enforcement officer reimbursement program, which are grants awarded to state and local jurisdictions to help patrol and secure airports. The budget itself states that the elimination of the law enforcement officer reimbursement program “could lead to reduced law enforcement support at checkpoints.”
Because the budget eliminates the law enforcement officer grants, the common areas between ticketing and checkpoints will most likely be unprotected. It is less likely that a law enforcement officer will be anywhere around if an attack takes place. Passengers, airport and airline employees, and TSA officers will be vulnerable.
“It’s shocking that such an important security measure would be eliminated,” Cox said. “If anything, security of our airports needs to be increased, not decreased.”
AFGE has been calling on TSA to create a new unit of armed TSA law enforcement officers to defend our nation’s airport screening areas around the clock.
This will ensure a consistent, professional, and coordinated response in the event an incident like the LAX shooting occurs again,” Cox added.
Source: AFGE National Website
7 Things Trump Wants to Privatize
June 05, 2017
The Trump administration wants to run the government like a business: all the profits go to those at the top, and the rest of us are left to fight over the scraps.
Less than five months into his presidency, Trump has taken serious steps to hand over major public assets to profit-hungry corporations. From the pro-business cabinet picks to the “Corporate Interests First” budget proposal, the administration makes it clear it wants to deconstruct government agencies, gut regulations that keep us safe from polluters and corporate greed, and sell off public goods for private profit.
The administration is so eager to sell off public assets thatClick here to Read More
Privatizing public assets and federal jobs may sound good for politicians, but it is a bad deal for the American people. Privatizing public assets means allowing greedy corporations to overcharge for things that rightfully belong to all Americans. Privatizing government functions means taking existing money from programs millions of people rely on and cutting them to the bone so their new owners can make an extra buck.
Studies have shown that public-private partnerships (PPPs) just don’t work. They’re expensive and inefficient. A report by the Brookings Institution found that “in practice [PPPs] have been dogged by contract design problems, waste, and unrealistic expectations.”
But these facts are not relevant considering the demands of the well-funded, politically-connected special interests.
Here are seven things the Trump administration wants to privatize right away:
- Federal jobs. The Trump budget lifts the ban on privatization studies of federal jobs, opening a flood gate of wholesale privatization of public jobs. It’s a well-known fact that contractors are two to three times more expensive than federal civilians. Most of the money goes straight to increase the bottom line or enrich the CEOs and executives while workers see their salaries, benefits, and pensions cut.
- Prisons. Federal, state, and local governments have used private prisons for decades, but it was only recently when companies running private prisons drew a public outcry after it was revealed that two thirds of private prisons required that their prisons be 80-90 percent full otherwise the taxpayers would be on the hook for unused beds. The Obama administration decided to phase out private prisons after studies showed they have more safety, sanitary, and security problems than the ones run by the government. Within a month after taking office, however, Trump reversed the Obama-era decision. His budget increases funding for private prisons by $171 million.
- Veterans Affairs health care. The Trump administration expanded the VA privatization program that sends veterans to for-profit private hospitals, which often are inferior to VA hospitals. The Trump budget also cuts benefits for disabled veterans in order to pay for further privatization of veterans care.
- Public schools. The Trump budget cuts funding for public schools and transfers the money to for-profit companies. Public schools are designed to serve all students – rich, poor, healthy, disabled, easy to teach, difficult to teach. Private schools are not. Public schools guarantee equal opportunity and are essential to our country’s common good.
- Air traffic control. The administration has proposed to privatize the country’s air traffic control. This could raise operational costs by 20-29% after 10 years, which means passengers would have to shoulder heftier fees when buying plane tickets. Our current system is the busiest and safest in the world. Privatizing it would create chaos and put our national defense’s surveillance and communications systems at risk.
- Roads and bridges. The administration proposed deep cuts to existing infrastructure programs and divert public money to investors who would rake in profits from highways, bridges, rest stops. As a result, the American people will be forced to pay expensive tolls or fees to use facilities that should belong to us all along.
- Public lands and national monuments. Trump in April signed an executive order directing the Interior Department to review national monuments and “suggest legislative changes or modifications,” laying the groundwork to remove protections on public lands and waters. The order is excellent news for Big Oil and its lobbyists but terrible news for the American public and the environment.
“When we privatize, we’re padding the pockets of CEOs and giving up key aspects of our democratic control,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “Their bottom line is profit, not the American people. In contrast, our government exists for the common good, to make our lives better. We need to fully fund our government programs, not diverting public money to enrich millionaires and billionaires.”
Source: AFGE National Website