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House to Vote on Groundbreaking VA Bill

By Concerned Veterans for America

Columbus, OH – Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is urging the House to pass a historic bill tomorrow that would finally give the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary, David Shulkin, the authority he needs to hold bad employees accountable. Last Tuesday, the Senate passed the bill — which Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) vocally opposed — and it will head to the President’s desk if passed by the House tomorrow.

CVA engaged in a major grassroots effort to garner support for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act from lawmakers around the country. CVA activists made hundreds of thousands of calls and emails to legislators’ offices in support of the bill and ran web ads encouraging Ohio citizens to contact their elected officials.

CVA Ohio Field Director Steve Burkhalter released the following statement:

“There has never been a better time than now to finally deliver accountability for veterans. For too long, a toxic culture has existed at the VA due to a complete lack of accountability and the inability to fire bad employees quickly. This groundbreaking legislation will give Secretary Shulkin the authority he has requested to fire bad employees quickly while protecting the whistleblowers who have the bravery to speak up. Despite the best efforts of Senator Brown, reasonable elected officials on both sides of the aisle have come together in support of this important reform in order to help our veterans. We encourage the House to send this legislation to President Trump so it can be signed into law.”

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.

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.