Las Vegas, Nev. – In response to outreach from Nevada constituents, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) led Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and 17 Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requesting more information on VA hazard and retention pay policies for clinical employees involved in the COVID-19 response. VA employees deserve hazard pay for their dangerous work during the coronavirus pandemic, and this letter encourages the VA to consider removing arbitrary caps on retention incentives in order to ensure all VA staff feel adequately supported.
“We remain concerned to hear reports that VA frontline medical employees still do not feel adequately supported to conduct their jobs safely – includuing having access to appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Employees have also noted a lack of hazard pay in recognition of their daily risk of working in hospitals with COVID-19 patients,” the Senators wrote. “… the VA’s recent PPE austerity measures risked the health of countless VA staff, and while PPE supply has since improved, essential staff are still in danger of exposure by reporting to work every day.”
The Senators continued, “we will continue to advocate for hazard pay for workers on the front lines of this pandemic to recognize their service, bravery and risk in this unprecedented time. Given VA was appropriated more than $19 billion in the CARES Act for the COVID-19 response, we urge you to implement hazard pay for VA health care employees regardless of current incentives unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic they may also be receiving.”
In addition to Senators Cortez Masto and Tester, Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) also signed the letter.
Full text of the letter can be found here.