Arlington, VA – Today members of the Senate — Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Johnny Isakson, (R-GA), and Jon Tester (D-MT) — will introduce a new bipartisan accountability bill called the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017.
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 bill ensures that VA employees who are in the process of being terminated will not remain on the VA payroll during that process.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 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:
“After years of scandal, there is still hardly any accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will give Secretary Shulkin the authority he needs to hold department employees responsible for their actions – something he has repeatedly said is necessary in order for him to fix the toxic culture there. If passed into law, this bill will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to terminate, demote, or suspend employees who engage in misconduct or perform poorly. Taken together, these new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing.
“This is not a partisan issue, this is not a partisan bill, and there is absolutely no excuse for Congress not to expedite moving this bill forward. Veterans across the country are watching and demanding action. We strongly urge the Senate to take up the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 immediately.”
The current disciplinary process at the VA can take over 400 days and can be expanded indefinitely.
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.
CVA has been engaged in an ongoing nationwide grassroots campaign in support of the VA Accountability First Act, an earlier version of the bill which was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) earlier this year. That bill passed the House with bipartisan support.