Arlington, VA – Earlier this afternoon, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) passed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, or S.1094, with minimal changes.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 will reduce the time it takes to fire bad employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (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.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“We’re pleased to see that the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act was moved to the Senate floor with no changes and that committee members voted down amendments that would have undermined the intent of the bill. The Senate will now vote on strong, meaningful reform that will finally give Secretary Shulkin the power he needs to fire bad employees quickly. Senator Isakson should be commended for his hard work getting this measure passed. Veterans are now one step closer to receiving the quality of care they earned and deserve from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the fight isn’t over yet.”
During the hearing today, several members of the committee – including Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) – proposed amendments which would have watered the bill down significantly.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the primary union for VA employees, is the primary opponent of S.1094. The group has consistently opposed commonsense and bipartisan bills which would introduce more accountability to the VA.
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.
CVA is engaged in a nationwide grassroots effort to garner support of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. The group’s activists have made hundreds of thousands of calls and sent tens of thousands of emails to Senate offices in support of the bill. CVA is also running web ads in targeted Senate districts.
CVA also actively supported the VA Accountability First Act, an earlier version of the bill which was also introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the spring. Many of CVA’s Senate targets during that effort are now cosponsors of the new VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.