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Senate Must Move Quickly on VA Accountability Bill

By Concerned Veterans for America

Arlington, VA – Tomorrow afternoon the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing to consider S.1094, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) is urging lawmakers to fast-track this strong bipartisan legislation, which was originally introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and includes twelve bipartisan co-sponsors including Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

The bill 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 bill 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 Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:

“We urge the Senate VA Committee to move the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in its current form, without significant amendments. This legislation is strongly supported by every major veterans group, a bipartisan group of Senators, and Secretary Shulkin himself. President Trump has indicated he is willing to sign this legislation as soon as it gets to his desk, so there is no excuse for the Senate not to schedule a vote on this important bill immediately. This is a historic opportunity to bring real reform to the Department of Veterans Affairs and save the lives of veterans across the country.”

Secretary Shulkin recently issued a statement urging Congress to pass S. 1094 without delay.

Last week, a VA watchdog again urged the Washington, DC VA Medical Center to take immediate action after new revelations of “troubling incidents” that pose a risk to patient safety surfaced yesterday during an onsite visit by the Inspector General. A preliminary Office of the Inspector General report found that patients at the DC VA facility were in imminent danger. The report concluded that over the past three years, there have been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment.

CVA engaged in a nationwide grassroots campaign in support of the VA Accountability First Act, an earlier version of the bill which was also introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) earlier this year. The group made hundreds of thousands of phone and digital contacts to Senate offices in support of the measure, which passed the House with bipartisan support.