A group of government employes have sued their agency complaining that they don't have enough work rules.

The complaint came from the National Association of Veterans Administration Physicians in a lawsuit that seeks to block the Veterans Administration from disciplining 72 physicians accused of accepting gifts and favors from pharmaceutical companies.

The association, which represents many of the VA's 13,000 medical doctors, has accused the agency of attempting to "encourage the public perception that we are a pack of criminals on the take from drug companies."

In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court here, the doctors allege that the VA lacks authority to discipline them because its personnel rules for physicians are basically nonexistent or consist of rules that were not adopted in accordance with federal personnel laws.

Personnel manuals used by the VA at its 172 medical centers "contain handwritten revisions and reflect an ad hoc process of adoption and promulgation not in accordance with minimum standards of fundamental fairness," the association's lawsuit said.

"To the extent that standards for adverse actions are discoverable, they are so vague and confusing that there is no fair procedure to safeguard the interests of VA physicians and the public interest," it said.

A VA spokesman declined to comment yesterday on the lawsuit, but said that the agency has rules covering the ethical conduct of its physicans that it distributed throughout the system after a celebrated investigation two years ago into gifts to VA employes from Smith, Kline and French, a Philadelphia drug company.

The suit grows out of an expanded investigation by the VA's inspector general into charges that hundreds of physicans had accepted honoraria, grants and favors from five other drug manufacturers. Last month, the VA announced that 72 cases against physicians had been referred to the agency's Department of Medicine and Surgery for action.

Six other cases were referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution, the VA said.

The physicians' group has said that the charges against the doctors were exaggerated by the inspector general and that the impact of the investigation may not be as great as the numbers might indicate because many of the doctors may be part-time VA employes.