Congress passes long-sought VA accountability bill

Nick Mcbride
June 14, 2017

Marco Rubio, R-Florida, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, has dozens of co-sponsors in the Senate and passed by voice vote in the upper chamber on June 6.

It comes after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments.

United States Department of Veterans Affairs (WASHINGTON) - The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs Tuesday, sending the measure to the White House for President Trump's signature. "Our organization has led the charge for the need for meaningful accountability at the VA from the beginning, and we are gratified to see the U.S. Congress placing a priority on the quality of workers caring for our veterans and the VA facilities". "No effort toward real, wholesale reform at the department will ever be successful absent a strong culture of accountability first".

House leaders quickly touted progress on veterans' issues. "The goal of the VA is to provide care for veterans, and without question your staff is the most important asset here". And we uncovered all the scandals at the VA.

"We're bringing accountability", said Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., earlier in the day.

"Fill the 49,000 vacancies that exist at the VA today, that Congress has already appropriated the money for so that there wouldn't be the wait list, so that veterans can receive the care that they deserve".

The bill is created to protect whistleblowers and give VA Secretary David Shulkin the tools to fire bad or under-performing employees.

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The bill was criticized by American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal workers. But the Senate-passed measure was viewed as more in balance with workers' rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The legislation also allows the VA to claw back bonuses given to employees convicted of a job-related felony.

The Senate bill also would turn a campaign promise of Trump's into law. It establishes an "Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection" within the department and forbids the VA Secretary from retaliating against whistleblowers who have filed a complaint with the VA general counsel's office.

The new law would specifically give the VA secretary more power to discipline or fire employees and shorten an appeal process that can now last years. He noted, "after years of all this and none of them getting fired, the good employees become dispirited".

After the bill passed the Senate last week, Trump urged the House on Twitter to "get this bill to my desk ASAP!"

Speaking on the House floor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), said the bill addresses the VA's "culture of ambivalence" and "lack of accountability".

While public unions opposed the legislation, the head of at least one veterans group publicly supported it.

Other reports by VgToday

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