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Roe, Walz Commend Senate for Accountability Legislation

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Today, Reps. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, released the following statements after the Senate introduction of legislation to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA):

“I commend Senators Marco Rubio, Johnny Isakson and Jon Tester for reaching a bipartisan agreement on accountability legislation,” said Roe. “I’m also pleased much of my bill, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, is included in the Senate bill, and I hope the Senate will act swiftly to give Secretary Shulkin the tools he’s made it clear he needs to bring accountability to VA. I know that the vast majority of the men and women who work at VA take their duty to serve veterans seriously, but bad actors have tarnished the reputation of good employees for far too long. Our veterans deserve to know that bad actors within the department will be held accountable, and I look forward to supporting this bipartisan bill in the House.”

“We applaud our colleagues in the Senate for their bipartisan effort to give the VA Secretary the tools they need to hold bad employees accountable and for doing so in a way that maintains Constitutionally mandated workplace protections that help shield good employees and whistleblowers from retaliation,” said Walz. “I look forward to working together with members in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and get this critically important legislation signed into law.”

Background:

The Senate bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, includes key portions of Chairman Roe’s legislation. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 would:

  • 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.

For more information on the House-passed accountability bill, visit veterans.house.gov/accountability.

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