Legislation (HR-980) has been reintroduced in the House to expand bargaining rights of VA nurses, physicians and other health care workers, which sponsors assert would create a better working environment and thus help the department’s recruitment and retention.

VA health care providers cannot negotiate over matters of professional conduct or competence, peer review or changes to compensation, which effectively prevents them from “raising grievances about staffing shortages that undermine patient care or negotiating for competitive pay that will attract health care workers to the VA,” said sponsor Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., in a statement.

The bill is one of the priorities of the AFGE union, which said the change “will ensure those workers have strong workplace rights and are not silenced when they advocate for improvements to veterans’ care.”