Columbus, OH — Today the Senate voted to pass the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that will shorten the process for firing bad employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and was supported by Senator Portman (R-OH), but opposed by Senator Brown (D-OH).
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) engaged in a major grassroots effort to garner support for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. The group’s activists and volunteers made hundreds of thousands of calls and emails to Senators around the country. CVA also ran web ads asking activists to contact their elected officials in support of the bill.
CVA Ohio Field Director Steve Burkhalter issued the following statement:
“Veterans have been subjected to an unaccountable, under-performing and negligent Department of Veterans Affairs for too long. When this historic legislation is signed into law, Secretary Shulkin will finally be granted the authority he needs to fire bad employees and protect whistleblowers who boldly speak up about wrongdoing. We thank Senator Rubio for championing this bill and helping bring veterans the care they deserve. We are disappointed that Senator Sherrod Brown attempted to water this legislation down in committee despite it being a strong bipartisan bill. Ohio veterans were watching closely to see who supported this effort, and they will remember who stood up for them.”
The bill now moves to the House to concur. President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign this legislation when it reaches his desk.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 will reduce the time it takes to fire bad employees at the VA, give Secretary Shulkin the ability to recoup bonuses awarded to employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct, and reduce the pensions of VA employees found guilty of felonies related to their employment at the VA. The measure ensures that VA employees who are terminated will not remain on the VA payroll while appealing their terminations. The bill will also increase protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that they are not retaliated against for speaking up about wrongdoings at the department.
Recently, President Trump established a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA. Both the President and Secretary Shulkin have been outspoken about the need for Congress to pass strong legislation to make that new office as effective as possible. Secretary Shulkin recently issued a statement explicitly urging Congress to pass S.1094 without delay.