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, S. 1094, was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and is cosponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).
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 Texas Field Director Russ Duerstine released the following statement:
“Veterans deserve the best care possible, but that will never happen until employees at the VA are held accountable for their negligence, poor performance, or misconduct. Currently, bad VA employees can remain at work and on the payroll for months or even years before action is taken to punish or terminate them. This accountability legislation will give Secretary Shulkin the authority he needs to clean up the toxic culture at the department while also protecting the whistleblowers who have the courage to speak up about wrongdoing. President Trump has indicated he will sign this legislation if it reaches his desk so there is no excuse for the Senate not to move forward with this strong bipartisan bill.”
CVA is engaging in a major national grassroots effort to garner support for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act from senators across the country. CVA activists have made hundreds of thousands of calls and emails to Senate offices in support of the bill. CVA also ran web ads in states where they targeted senators for support.
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.