Title 38 Information

In This Briefing: NG-10/9/19: VA Handbook 5011/32 – Physician Annual Leave

As you know, full-time physicians, dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, and optometrists have historically accrued and used annual leave in “daily” increments.  Physicians are compensated based on 24/7/365 availability, and they regularly work long, irregular, and unscheduled hours.  They are not entitled to additional compensation or premium pay for on-call duty, overtime work, or unscheduled hours.  Physicians earn 26 “days” of annual leave per calendar year, and they use that annual leave in increments of “days.”  Each “day” of annual leave covers their entire shift regardless of whether they work, for example, 8, 10, 12, or 13-hour days.  

 In August 2017, the Agency notified the Union of its desire to revise VA Handbook 5011 to include variable work schedules and to change leave policy for physicians.  The Agency explained that this change would reduce the “minimum charge” for annual leave from 1 day to 1 hour.   Implementation of this change was then put on hold pending system enhancements to VATAS.  On August 28, 2019, the Agency published a bulletin explaining that physician annual leave accrual and usage would be converted to hourly increments, with each day equaling only 8 hours regardless of work schedule.  The Union immediately raised our concerns with VHA senior leadership at a meeting in Washington, DC.  We explained that this change would penalize physicians working alternative work schedules and would unjustifiably result in the forfeiture of earned annual leave balances.  Our follow-up emails to VHA were not answered. 

 On or about September 15, 2019, the Agency converted physician leave balances from “days” to “hours” using 8-hour increments.  This violates numerous provisions in the 2011 Master Agreement and constitutes a change in conditions of employment. The Agency did not notify NVAC prior to implementation.  In doing so, the Agency violated the mid-term bargaining obligations in our contract and committed an unfair labor practice. 

 Earlier today, we filed a National Grievance.  We are seeking a status quo ante remedy with make-whole relief for any affected AFGE bargaining unit employees.  For a full explanation of the Agency’s violations and our requested relief, please review NG-10/9/19. 

 A copy of NG-10/9/19 is attached for your reference.  If you have any questions concerning this National Grievance, please contact the NVAC Legal Team at nvacattorney@afge.org.