House passes VA, DoD civilian pay freeze

Friday - 6/1/2012, 2:36pm EDT

The House passed a veterans funding bill Thursday that would extend the pay freeze another year for civilian employees of the Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments.

The bill passed 407-12, despite a White House veto threat.

The administration proposed a 0.5 percent pay raise for civilian feds in fiscal 2013, which begins Oct. 1. All civilian federal employees are now in the second of a two-year pay freeze.

"As the President stated in his FY 2013 budget, a permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable," according to a policy statement released by the Office of Management and Budget this week.

One federal union says the pay freeze provision in the veterans bill unfairly singles out "the patriotic and dedicated civilian employees" of DoD and VA.

"Among the many crucial support occupations of our DoD civilians are aircraft and tank mechanics, weapons systems analysts, nurses and doctors in military hospitals, and auditors of defense contracts. In (VA) are doctors, nurses, prosthetics interns, blind rehabilitation specialists, psychiatrists and countless other direct patient care providers in VA hospitals," wrote Beth Moten, legislative and political director for the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 650,000 federal workers, in a letter sent to House members.

The bill — H.R. 5854 — also gives a slight boost to health care spending for veterans and provides more funds for compensation to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with service-related disabilities. About half of the $148 billion measure is for veterans' pensions and disability payments, including a 20 percent or $10.5 billion increase for these payments.

Of these 1.6 million new vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, 45 percent are claiming service-related injuries.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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