Arlington, VA – Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is urging the Senate to pass a groundbreaking bill tomorrow that would finally give the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary, David Shulkin, the authority he needs to hold bad employees accountable. The bill was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) has yet to take a position on the bill.
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.
CVA Virginia Field Director Hyrum Palmer released the following statement:
“Veterans cannot afford to wait any longer for accountability to be established at the Department of Veterans Affairs. For too long, it has been nearly impossible to fire bad employees and as a result, veterans are often left in the hands of poorly preforming staff who cannot be immediately terminated. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will grant VA Secretary Shulkin the authority to immediately fire bad employees before they can cause more harm. This simple yet important step will allow Secretary Shulkin to begin to fix the toxic culture that currently exists at the VA. This accountability legislation will also protect the whistleblowers who have the courage to speak up and often face retaliation because of their actions. President Trump has already indicated he will sign this legislation if it reaches his desk so there is no excuse for Congress not to move forward with this strong bipartisan bill.”
CVA’s Virginia chapter is engaged in a major grassroots effort to garner support for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act from Senator Mark Warner. CVA Virginia activists made tens of thousands of calls and emails to Warner’s Senate offices in support of the bill. CVA also ran the following web ad in Senator Warner’s district.
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 also actively supported the VA Accountability First Act, an earlier version of the bill which passed the House with bipartisan support. Many of CVA’s Senate targets during that effort are now cosponsors of the new VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.