As the Civil War drew to a close, President Lincoln spoke of the nation’s duty “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Today the primary responsibility for the care of our military veterans lies with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The health care administration within this agency is the country’s largest integrated health care system, providing care at 1,255 health care facilities, including 170 medical centers and 1,074 outpatient sites of care of varying complexity (VHA outpatient clinics), serving 9 million enrolled Veterans each year.
In August 2018, Marzulla Law LLC filed a class action – YSLA v. United States (18-1292C) – on behalf of over 90,000 VA nurses and physicians’ assistants to obtain back pay owed them since 2012. After the U.S. Court of Federal Claims held that these VA health care professionals were entitled to the same pay for night and Saturday shifts whether on leave or working, the VA changed its handbook to deny them that pay. No notice or comment, no discussion—no regulation. The issue in the case is whether the mere changing of the handbook meets the statutory standard—that the Secretary shall prescribe leaves of absence by regulation.
Much of the day-to-day care of injured and recovering veterans is the responsibility of health care professionals, including registered nurses and physician assistants.
The VA employs thousands of health care professionals to work directly with the care and treatment of injured veterans. According to the VA:
From diagnosing and treating patients in high-pressure situations to working with complex medical technology, former military healthcare workers are uniquely equipped to care for others. While these skills make an incredible asset to the civilian medical field, at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it takes on even more meaning. VA has careers, tied to specialized skillsets, where former military healthcare workers can heal and care for fellow Veterans.
Unfortunately, the VA fails to fulfill its legal obligations to those health care professionals charged with providing medical care for our veterans.
Since filing the lawsuit in 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice has vigorously defended the case, submitting the case for decision on summary judgment. A hearing on the Government’s motion was held in September and we are awaiting a decision.