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Accountability Legislation Heads to President's Desk

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Today, the House passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The legislation will now head to the president’s desk. Chairman Phil Roe, M.D. (R-Tenn.) and representatives from Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) released the following statements:

“I’ve said time and time again that the vast majority of VA’s employees are hard-working public servants who are dedicated to providing quality healthcare and benefits for veterans,” said Roe. “But, for far too long, the failures of the bad actors have tarnished the good name of all VA employees. Today, the House came together to change that. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will create the culture of accountability at VA that our nation’s heroes deserve, while protecting the men and women who blow the whistle on injustices at VA. I thank Senators Isakson, Rubio and Tester for leading the charge on accountability in the Senate, as well as all of my colleagues in the House, particularly Ranking Member Walz, for supporting this legislation that will allow us to bring wholesale reform to VA. I’m also grateful to Secretary Shulkin and the entire Trump Administration for their strong support of accountability from day one, and I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law so we can once and for all bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The American Legion

“On behalf of the 2.2M members of The American Legion, we applaud the House of Representatives passing of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.  This legislation, as currently written, will provide the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs the authorities to improve accountability and raise employee performance and morale.  We are impressed by the speed by which Congress acted to move this critical legislation forward to the President’s desk in a bipartisan manner. We look forward to this bill becoming law.” Charles E. Schmidt, National Commander

Concerned Veterans for America

“For years a toxic culture has plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will be a meaningful step toward turning the troubled department around. Finally, Secretary Shulkin will be empowered with the authority to quickly remove those who under-perform, neglect patients, or even engage in criminal activity. We believe this historic piece of legislation will help usher in a new era of integrity and accountability at the department entrusted with caring for our heroes. We thank Chairman Roe, Senator Rubio, and concerned citizens across the country who pushed relentlessly to generate support from both sides of the aisle and make this reform a reality.” Dan Caldwell, Policy Director

Disabled American Veterans

“DAV supports enactment of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. I applaud the bipartisan effort to ensure greater accountability and strengthened whistleblower protections within VA. We thank Chairman Roe for his leadership to ensure VA is able to enforce accountability standards to attract, hire and retain the brightest and best employees our nation has to offer to care for ill and injured veterans.” Garry Augustine, DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director.

Fleet Reserve Association

“Accountability in the VA, and within the department, should be an authentic and transparent continuum of a prime-mover for the defined core-values, care and benefits for our nation’s Veterans and their families.   This should be the mainstay, the anchor, and responsible course of action now and forever.” Thomas J. Snee, M.Ed, National Executive Director

Got Your 6

"The veteran community has been pushing for three years now to adequately address the need for greater accountability at the VA while also maintaining a workplace that is able to attract and retain high quality professionals. Got Your 6 works to be a collaborative partner of the VA and we strongly support this approach to empower VA leadership with more efficient workforce management options. We applaud the House for quickly taking up this bill after Senate passage and look forward to the President signing it into law." Bill Rausch, Executive Director

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

“This is welcome news to veterans nationwide. Given that the scandal in Phoenix alerted the country to the outrageous state of the VA health care system nearly three years ago, this change is long overdue. IAVA applauds the leadership of Majority Leader McCarthy and Chairman Roe to hold a House vote on the Senate-passed bill that will empower the VA to remove bad-acting employees. IAVA and our members have fought relentlessly to give the VA Secretary the tools needed to address workforce accountability and save veterans’ lives, and we are extremely pleased that final passage into law is within reach." IAVA Founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff

Military Order of the Purple Heart

"The ability to hold bad employees accountable and protect whistleblowers is absolutely critical for VA to accomplish its mission of caring for our nation's veterans.  MOPH deeply thanks all members of the House and Senate who voted "yes" on this legislation, and especially Chairmen Roe and Isakson and Ranking Members Walz and Tester for their steadfast, bipartisan leadership on this important issue." Hershel Gober, MOPH National Commander

Paralyzed Veterans of America

"No other large healthcare system rivals VA's competence to deliver specialized services at a national level, such as spinal cord injury and disease and polytrauma care, or synthesizes access to healthcare, benefits, support, and peer mentorship better than VA. But what VA needs most right now is the one 'ability' it presently lacks and can no longer be taken for granted — accountability. Whether that means better protecting whistleblowers, shortening the reprimand process, or recouping ill-gotten bonuses and relocation expenses, achieving a state of being answerable to the public, the Congress, and most importantly, veterans, will be dictated by the worst behavior the VA Secretary has to tolerate. This bill will be a major step toward having to tolerate such behavior no more." Sherman Gillums, Executive Director

Student Veterans of America

“We have witnessed first-hand why it is imperative to have stronger accountability measures for VA employees. This bill gives the Secretary of VA the authority to take necessary action against negligent employees, such as recalling their bonuses and relocation expenses. Accountability is a major challenge for VA and this bill addresses accountability challenges with specific measures.” Jared Lyon, President and CEO of Student Veterans of America

United States Army Warrant Officers Association

“This bipartisan legislation will ensure the VA Secretary has crucial, enforceable tools at his disposal to provide more efficient services to our Veterans in need, and enforce greater accountability of the professionals tasked with serving them.” CW4 (Ret) Jack Du Teil, Executive Director

Veterans of Foreign Wars

“The VFW wants Secretary Shulkin to have the authority to manage his people in a manner expected of all senior executives, public or private. The VFW wants the secretary to weed out the nonperformers and those whose personal conduct brings doubt and dishonor upon thousands of dedicated employees. And the VFW wants this bill passed into law, because maintaining the status quo doesn’t work for those who have borne the battle.” VFW National Commander Brian Duffy

Vietnam Veterans of America

“Vietnam Veterans of America has been advocating strongly for much greater accountability from VA management since our founding in 1978. We haves one so in public statements and countless testimonies on Capitol Hill. This statute is a real milestone in that journey; a journey that at times seemed to be a very lonely effort. We are gratified to see this day. The Secretary now has the proper tools. Now it is up to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hold managers accountable at VA.” John Rowan, VVA National President

Background:

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.

The Senate passed this legislation on June 6, 2017. More information on the bill can be found here

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