Today a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would bring stronger accountability reform to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) reached across the aisle to craft the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.
This new legislation is similar to the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support in late March of this year. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to push for major change at the VA.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act demands systemic reform.
First and foremost, this bill makes it easier to fire bad VA employees. The initial wait time scandal at the VA drew national outrage three years ago, but reports continue to emerge almost daily about abusive, callous, and malicious VA employees that have escaped consequences. The inability to navigate legal red tape and quickly fire employees contributes to a toxic workplace culture that hurts veterans.
This new bill will give the VA Secretary more authority to remove bad employees and replace them with employees who will properly care for veterans.
In addition, this new bill tackles some loopholes that cost taxpayers thousands. The bill prohibits employees who have been terminated from collecting paychecks while appealing their termination, as well enables the VA to recoup undeserved bonuses from employees who have engaged in misconduct.
Finally, the legislation expands whistleblower protections and rights. Concerned staff members who expose misconduct and quality of care concerns should never fear retaliation when they speak out. Stronger protections will help diminish whistleblower intimidation.
Recently, President Trump signed an Executive Order creating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection and has indicated support for additional reform. The House acted on accountability legislation and now the Senate must pass the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
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