Congresswoman Luria Calls on Dept. of Veterans Affairs to Fully and Fairly Implement Telework and Paid Sick Leave Telework Policies During COVID-19 Pandemic

May 29, 2020
Press Release

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA – Congresswoman Luria joined several of her colleagues on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in calling on VA Secretary Wilkie to fully and fairly implement telework and paid sick leave policies during this public health emergency to protect veterans and VA workers alike.

“We are living in unprecedented times, and we must protect our veterans and VA employees alike to in order to safeguard those most vulnerable in our community and slow community spread of COVID-19,” said Congresswoman Luria. “I am concerned that the VA and Secretary Wilkie have yet to provide their employees with commonsense accommodations such as paid leave or the option to telework. On behalf of the VA employees and the veterans in our district who rely on their public service, I am calling on Secretary Wilkie to take swift action to ensure those working at the VA will be protected.”

Below are the questions posed to Secretary Wilkie:

For implementation of both telework and leave policies, please describe:

  • To what extent does VA enforce approval policies, and how is each administration and Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) providing oversight of the application of those policies?
  • If a VA employee believes that they were improperly denied a telework or leave request, what is the process for appealing or seeking a review of that decision?

Regarding implementation of telework:

  • What office and which official in each VA administration has responsibility for ensuring that employees have the necessary devices to support telework? 
  • For each VA administration, what is the number or percentage of employees who are currently unable to telework? Please indicate if this inability is due to system limitations, software issues, hardware issues (including lack of end-user devices), or other reasons.
  • Between January 1 and April 30, 2020, how many employees had new continuous telework agreements approved, and how does this compare to the number of employees with new telework agreements approved during the same time period in 2019? 
  • Is each VA administration permitted to issue broad telework policies that apply to all staff? If not, why not?  How is VA ensuring that telework policies are applied uniformly for similarly situated staff?

Regarding implementation of paid leave:

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act grants VA the authority to decide whether it should exclude health care workers from receiving paid sick leave. Please describe under what circumstances and for what purposes VA would exclude health care workers, especially considering their heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 or exposing the virus to others.
  • What were the levels and types of leave granted to VA employees from January 1 through April 30 of this year, and how does this compare to the previous year?

The letter can be read here.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.