Sen. Joni Ernst | Senate Approves Ernst Amendment to Take Attendance at Government Agencies and Examine Impact of Remote Work on Services
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) amendment to hold the Biden administration accountable for the cost to taxpayers and the impact on services from continued remote work by Washington bureaucrats was unanimously approved by the Senate. Seventy-five percent or more of the office space at the headquarters of most federal agencies continues to be unused, according to a newly released report.
“Thousands of calls to the VA from veterans seeking mental health care went unanswered over the past year.
“And that was just at the Atlanta VA!
“One veteran in the midst of a mental health crisis called TEN times over a three-month period and could not get the care she needed, much less anyone to answer her calls, so she ended up in an emergency room.
“Other veterans who made VA appointments say their therapists didn’t even show up.
“Meanwhile, a manager at the Atlanta VA responsible for overseeing the scheduling of veterans’ appointments actually called into a meeting from a bubble bath—and posted this selfie on social media with the caption, “my office for the next hour.”
“Another VA staffer lamented, “It’s almost as if this employee is making a mockery of all the veterans. I can sit here in my tub and relax, and you just have to wait.”
“And that is exactly what is happening.
“While this bill provides nearly $320 billion for the VA, what good is it to give the agency all of this money if the VA isn’t even answering the phone or showing up for appointments with veterans?
“This isn’t just a problem at the VA, either.
“Desperate travelers are waiting hours on the phone or in line hoping to speak with someone at the State Department about passport delays that are causing vacation cancelations.
“And seniors calling the Social Security Administration are increasingly having their calls go unanswered altogether as the agency shifts towards remote work.
“Frustrated Americans are sick and tired of being put on hold while many federal employees are phoning it in, “working” from home.
“In his 2022 State of the Union Address, President Biden pledged that “the vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.”
“A year and a half later, government employee unions are still fighting off efforts to bring the bureaucrats back.
“Only one out of every three bureaucrats is fully back in the office, according to a recent Office of Personnel Management survey.
“Some said they ‘never’ report to a physical office.
“Seventy-five percent or more of the office space at the headquarters of most federal agencies is not even being used.
“Taxpayers are picking up the cost of maintaining these mostly empty buildings.
“If federal employees can’t be found at their desks, exactly where are they?
“The work locations of over 281 thousand employees were redacted by the Biden Administration to a Freedom of Information request filed by the nonprofit group Open the Books.
“Well folks, time’s up for Biden’s game of bureaucrat hide-and-seek!
“I am offering an amendment making the Biden Administration account for the location of every bureaucrat who works for the VA and every other department funded by this bill.
“My amendment also requires taxpayers to be told about the financial and environmental costs of maintaining empty offices and the impact remote work is having on veterans’ care and the response times of other government services.
“To all of my Senate colleagues, don’t claim you are taking care of veterans just because there is a spending increase for the VA in this bill.
“We need to work together to ensure the VA is actually showing up and caring for veterans. My amendment will provide some much-needed accountability to monitor if that is happening.
“Our veterans answered the call of duty, now it’s time for federal employees to do the same.”