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Columns : The Federal Voice

Victimizing the VA Police

The Department of Veteran Affairs plans to pay the officers who guard our wounded warriors at the same level as clerks.

August 28, 2013  |  by Jon Adler

Photo courtesy of Jon Adler.
Photo courtesy of Jon Adler.
In June, I wrote a letter to Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opposing his department's intention to downgrade the pay level of VA police officers to the same level as that of a "Miscellaneous Clerk and Assistant" (per a 2013 VA Public Affairs release).

Earlier this year the VA announced its intention to "reclassify" 17 occupational series, including its police officers and special agents in the 080, 083, and 1811 grade series. While the VA asserts this announcement is being driven at the request of the Office of Personnel Management, it seems like the VA is feeding the officers and agents to the administrative lions to devour. The law enforcement guardians who protect our wounded warriors in the VA facilities deserve better.

In Secretary Shinseki's recent message released by the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, he stated in part that "We will not compromise the safety, security, or well-being of veterans or our employees..." I have to ask, how does downgrading the pay of our law enforcement guardians accomplish this noble commitment?

FLEOA opposes this plan, which will eradicate a professional law enforcement work force and have hall monitors protecting our disabled veterans. Without question, the VA law enforcement contingent is comprised of dedicated, well-trained professional officers and agents. While our association understands the budget challenges our country faces due to the across the board agency cuts, the VA was exempted from sequestration. So how does this result in the downgrading of an officer's pay to that of the level of a clerk?

Recognizing the possible desire of terrorist groups to target VA facilities where our warriors are recovering, it is critical that the VA continues to employ top-notch law enforcement officers. Our wounded warriors deserve the best protection the VA can provide, and this will not be sustained by paying law enforcement officers a miscellaneous clerk's salary. These same law enforcement professionals comprise the Secretary's security detail, and the Secretary should continue to be protected by professionals. By belittling the value of VA police officers' service, and lowering their future earning potential, the VA will be diminishing the level of its officers' excellence by driving away committed law enforcement professionals.

It's not like the VA police officers aren't distinguishing themselves as peace officers. Last year VA police responded to 23,749 disturbances, including 13,683 disorderly conduct incidents, 3,577 disturbing the peace incidents, and 2,582 trespassing incidents. It's important to note that quick intervention by these officers likely prevented these crimes from graduating into more significant and violent incidents. Additionally, VA police responded to and successfully resolved 547 patient threats, 66 bomb threats, and worked closely with the Office of the Inspector General Special Agents to save the government substantial money from fraud.

VA officers and agents graduate from an accredited law enforcement academy, regularly qualify with their government-issued firearms, and are subjected to strict physical fitness standards. They are not hall monitors armed with gumball machine whistles. So they should be paid on a commensurate level to their federal law enforcement counterparts. It's sad to note that this pay downgrade would put the VA uniformed officer on a 2003 starting pay level for similar federal officers, i.e., Supreme Court Police, Pentagon Force Protection, U.S. Mint Police, and the Federal Protective Service (GAO 2003 report: Federal Uniformed Police).

According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics May 2012 report, there has been a 46% increase in disabled veterans receiving treatment from the VA since 1990. Our disabled veteran population is increasing, so why would the VA seek to diminish their security by lowering the level of pay and resources for those who guard them? It will be an unforgivable disservice to our VA officers and agents, as well as our veterans, to allow VA law enforcement to be denigrated to the pay level of a miscellaneous clerk.

At press time, I was still awaiting a reply from Secretary Shinseki. Whether I ever hear from him or not, I would like to acknowledge the outstanding service provided by our VA law enforcement officers nationwide.

Tags: Special Agents, Trespassing, Officer Pay, Department of Veteran Affairs, FLEOA


Comments (20)

Displaying 1 - 20 of 20

Wilson @ 9/2/2013 10:22 AM

The VA Police in Los Angeles needs an upgrade. They have poor training skills and promote officers without experience. Badge enve officers who hate outside law enforcement. 6 weeks of training compared to 6 months. The Veterans our getting poor protection not quality protection.

JB @ 9/2/2013 11:25 AM

As a retired VA Police Officer and a retired officer of a well respected Southern California police

Joe @ 9/2/2013 5:49 PM

The VA police is a waste of money that work can be done by civilian security guard without weapons.

LT Dan @ 9/3/2013 6:09 AM

Ditto Wilson's observations. The VA Police here are not a shining example of Law Enforcement's fine

Tom @ 9/3/2013 8:06 PM

Willson, I'm afraid your information is out of date. The training, which is outstanding, has since b

Why not @ 9/4/2013 6:23 AM

I think it's funny the whole idea of getting paid the same as a Clerk. Some of the VA Police are alr

Edwin Castillo @ 9/4/2013 9:00 AM

Hi there Wilson; I have serve six years with the Arm Forces and eleven as VA Police Officer. Althoug

Mendez @ 9/4/2013 7:01 PM

The VA Police have come along way. Wilson the Academy is longer then 6 weeks. The VA Law Enforcement

John B @ 9/4/2013 7:09 PM

As a retiree from a well respected southern California police department as well as a retiree from t

J Will @ 9/5/2013 4:12 AM

One thing that is incorrect in the article is that VA Police Officers are subjected to strict physic

Mike @ 9/5/2013 4:32 AM

The Atlanta VA Police are an awesome group of dedicate professionals. We can't allow this downgradi

G.Messick @ 9/5/2013 9:10 AM

To Wilson, just to enlighten you Sir! The reason the VA Police Academy is 8 WEEKS is because it te

Matt @ 9/7/2013 8:16 AM

This is disturbing that the government would put the lives of our veterans and medical professionals

GIOSTORMUSN @ 9/14/2013 8:42 PM

Really Wilson? You know the VA Police so well huh? And by what method did you come to be so familiar with VA Police? Just to let you know the VA Police academy is 8 weeks, all officers are either Veterans with law enforcement experience from either military police, and or state county or city police agencies. Please VA Police have lots of training, and probably more range time than local police. We involve local police in many aspects. We train with local police for active shooter and will be doing so very soon.

gerald casey @ 9/15/2013 6:18 PM

Provided 16 hours continuing education training a month for gal police. Outside law enforcement have complimented the staff the last 12 months and have worked multiple joint operations that include armed encounters. Do they deserve a pay raise...without a doubt in my opinion

DeputyChief @ 9/17/2013 1:24 PM

Mandatory 8 week academy where prior law enforcement experience is required. Mandatory annual re-ce

butch @ 11/15/2013 8:07 AM

Bad news for VA cops as VA police training is useless outside the VA, making lateral transfers unlikely. Despite the rhetoric from ADLER & AFGE, the VA has budget issues which need to be addressed. SHINSEKI is making a business decision & will push responsibility for hospital security to the locals. I'm sure the recent high profile scandal (Cannibal VA cop) made the decision easier.

Patrick @ 3/13/2014 6:42 AM

The VA Police is not like it was 10 years ago. They are a rapidly adaptable law enforcement unit of well trained personnel that are designed to provide protection and response services to the needs of the VA patients and staff. Additionally VA Police are specially suited for the unique needs of Americas Veterans. Incase anyone forgot, Americas Veterans are the best trained, most experienced warriers in the history of the United States. If anyone in OPM and or personnel office feels otherwise they are doing a huge injustice to VA Police Officers who are there to ensure the VA can do its mission successfully, day in and day out.

Contract Security Guards on the other hand are a bunch of individuals, making individual decisions based on the requirements of a private insurance company that insures them not to take any risk. They are managed by those who in some cases, have no experience at all. They do not take risk and are trained not to. They are the waste of money at the VA.

GILBERT R. LARA @ 5/28/2014 7:14 AM

I HOPE THIS ALL WORKS OUT.

B @ 7/1/2014 8:17 PM

I agree that a security guard will not make the grade and for someone to say that the officers do not need to be armed is ignorant. Since the inception of the V.A. Police seven officers have died in the line of duty. Five of the officers died by gunfire. Just another ignorant lib who thinks he has all the answers.

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