Arlington, VA – Today Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. If passed, the bill would make it easier to terminate bad employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and help bring a new culture of accountability to the broken department.
The 2017 VA Accountability First Act would drastically shorten the overall termination and appeals process for VA employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct. Currently, that process can take months or even years. The bill also empowers the VA Secretary to recoup bonuses awarded in error or given to employees who were later found to have engaged in misconduct. Additionally, it also gives the VA Secretary the ability to reduce the pensions of VA employees who are convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance.
The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 also contains language that ensures that these new powers for the VA Secretary cannot be used against whistleblowers who speak up about wrongdoings at the VA.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“The VA has been failing veterans for years, in part because it is nearly impossible to terminate bad employees who continually reinforce a toxic culture within the department. Until poorly-performing and negligent VA employees understand there will be consequences for misconduct, the ongoing reports of fraud, abuse, and neglect will continue. The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 will help to correct the toxic culture within the VA by empowering VA leadership with the ability to get the bad employees out faster. The bill will allow the VA leadership to create a positive culture for both veterans who use the VA and the many VA employees who sincerely want to serve them.
“With President Trump and Secretary Shulkin both supporting stronger employee accountability measures at the VA, there is no excuse for Congress not to make this legislation a top priority. We urge Rep. Roe’s colleagues in the House to pass the 2017 VA Accountability First Act without delay.”
Newly-appointed VA Secretary David Shulkin recently recognized strong accountability measures as a “top ten” priority at the department.
Recently, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report revealed that employee drug theft problems continue to worsen at the VA. The VA’s own data indicates there has been a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions and unauthorized drug use by employees since 2009.
CVA has been pushing for accountability at the VA since the wait list scandal broke at the Phoenix VA in 2014. In response, the group launched the VA Accountability Project. Since that time, less than ten VA employees have been terminated for manipulating wait times at the VA.