Arlington, VA – Today, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) passed HB 1259, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. The bill was introduced by HVAC Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) just last week.
Representatives Kuster (D-NH), Takano (D-CA), and Walz (D-MN) unsuccessfully proposed pro-union amendments which would have watered down the bill – each of the measures were rejected.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“The representatives who supported the VA Accountability First Act today demonstrated their commitment to helping the VA better serve our veterans. It’s discouraging that some members of the committee attempted to water down this important piece of legislation at the behest of public sector unions, but we will remain vigilant at holding accountable those representatives who try putting Washington special interests ahead of veterans. The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 would make it easier to fire bad VA employees and empower Secretary Shulkin with the ability to take back bonuses given to those who engage in misconduct. This is a common-sense measure that the House should pass without delay – veterans’ lives are on the line.”
Earlier this week, CVA launched a targeted campaign urging 30 members of Congress to support the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. CVA released 30 web ads targeted at each member and also set up a digital tool which allows concerned citizens to contact their representatives directly in support of the bill.
The 2017 VA Accountability First Act would drastically shorten the overall termination and appeals process for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct. Currently, that process can take months or even years. The bill also empowers the VA Secretary to recoup bonuses awarded in error or given to employees who were later found to have engaged in misconduct. Additionally, the bill gives the VA Secretary the ability to reduce the pensions of VA employees who are convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance.
The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 also contains language that ensures that these new powers for the VA Secretary cannot be used against whistleblowers who speak up about wrongdoings at the VA.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Senate version of the bill shortly after Rep. Roe last week.