Law enforcement officers within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are facing issues that led them to seek union representation. These dedicated officers are now looking to get a retirement package they believe they deserve.
American Federation of Government Employees Local 1969 President Andrew Peterson joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to shine a light on the issues faced by members of Local 1969. He also explained how the problems are being resolved.
Getting involved with the AFGE
Peterson began by discussing his background. He has been with the Minneapolis VA for over 10 years. Before that, he was in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq and in other conflicts. After starting his law enforcement career with the Minneapolis VA, he decided to get involved with the union to help fix issues raised by his coworkers.
Peterson climbed the ranks of the union, starting as a shop steward, then running for Local Vice President and eventually President.
VA law enforcement issues
VA law enforcement officers are in a unique position because they were not getting the same representation as almost every other occupation within the VA. Peterson said the number one issue faced by these officers is inadequate retirement benefits.
The retirement package was not great, as officers were not allowed to retire at the same age as other law enforcement officers in the area. This created a large amount of turnover within the department, leading to inexperience and lower pay.
Law Enforcement Officer Equity Act and other fixes
The fix for some of the problems these officers face is addressed within the Law Enforcement Officer Equity Act. The bipartisan piece of legislation currently sits in a committee for review.
Peterson said the main feature of this legislation is a provision allowing federal law enforcement officers to retire with full benefits after 20 years of service at age 50, or anytime after 25 years of service. He remains hopeful the two parties can come together in the U.S. Senate to pass this legislation.
President Biden is also trying to fix some other issues faced by VA law enforcement officers. Through executive order, President Biden mandated the unions return to federal campuses. This gives them easier access to management and makes it easier to connect with members.