A Victory for Veterans

A New Era of Accountability at the VA

Last week, President Trump signed into law the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation ensures our veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve. I released the following statement:

Our vets have waited years for this kind of change and I could not be happier to see President Trump sign it into law! This is about restoring accountability at the VA, and this bill – now law – helps change the culture at the VA. Our vets have sacrificed everything for us: they deserve the best and that sometimes means getting rid of bad VA employees. Sadly, the VA can get so caught up in bureaucratic red tape, it can take years to get rid of these employees. This bill cuts through the red tape, sets a clear path to fire bad VA employees and makes way for more employees who will give our veterans the respect – and most importantly, the care they deserve.

BACKGROUND:
Multiple incidents of serious VA employee misconduct have been reported in recent years, often with minimal disciplinary action – if any at all – taken. Examples include; an employee who committed armed robbery, a nurse who participated in a veteran’s surgery while intoxicated, and continued failures to properly manage major VA construction projects, resulting in billions of wasted taxpayer dollars. The VA’s civil service laws have hampered the department’s ability to take proper action against such employees, resulting in lower quality service for veterans and a poor reputation for the department as a whole.

The VA Accountability Act of 2017 will...
Create a new streamlined and efficient process to remove, demote or suspend (for longer than 14 days) any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct with a concrete shortened timeline, while still protecting employees’ due process rights, and would provide them with the right to appeal the action.

Provide expanded protections for whistleblowers and would specifically bar VA from using this removal authority if the employee has an open whistleblower complaint/case with the Office of Special Counsel.

Provide the Secretary with the authority to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus; and allow the Secretary to recoup any relocation expenses that were authorized for a VA employee only through the employee’s ill-gotten means, such as fraud waste or malfeasance.

Authorize the Secretary to directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) if they have a demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration or health care fiscal management. This will make it easier to fill these critical positions quickly.

 

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