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CVA to SVAC: Don’t Water Down VA Accountability Bill

By Concerned Veterans for America

Arlington, VA – Today the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) will markup S.1094, the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is urging the SVAC to pass this legislation out of committee at Wednesday’s hearing without substantial changes to the bill.

The bill 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.

CVA Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:

“Senator Rubio’s legislation is supported by Senators on both sides of the aisle, every single major veterans organization, and the VA Secretary himself. With such broad consensus, there is no reason to cave to pressure from Washington special interests to water this measure down. It’s critical that the bill remain strong enough to truly give Secretary Shulkin the authority he needs to get bad employees out without bureaucratic delays.

“President Trump has said he is ready to sign this legislation as soon as it gets to his desk, so this is a very real opportunity to deliver reform to the veterans who have been waiting for it. The committee should move forward with minimal changes to the bill and put it on the Senate floor within the next few weeks.”

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the primary union for VA employees, has consistently opposed commonsense and bipartisan bills which would introduce more accountability to the VA, such as the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act and now the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.

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.