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VA Reform Champion Marco Rubio Takes Up New Accountability Bill in Senate

By Concerned Veterans for America

Arlington, VA – Today Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Senate version of the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) introduced the House version of the bill earlier this week.

The 2017 VA Accountability First Act would drastically shorten the overall termination and appeals process for Department of Veterans Affairs (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 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:

“We applaud Senator Rubio for demonstrating his continued dedication to helping veterans by introducing the VA Accountability First Act of 2017.  This important bill would make it easier to fire bad VA employees, revoke unearned bonuses, and allow the VA Secretary to reduce pensions of criminal VA employees. Both President Trump and Secretary Shulkin have clearly stated the need for strong accountability measures in 2017, and we urge the Senate to make this bill a top priority. It is long past time to fix the blatantly toxic culture at the VA, and the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 is a critical first step.”

Earlier this year, Senator Rubio re-introduced the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act, a similar bill which would make it easier to fire bad VA employees, cap bonuses for senior VA executives, reform the VA’s broken disability benefits appeals process, and strengthen whistleblower protections.

In 2014, Senator Rubio introduced the VA Accountability and Management Act, which was passed into law as part of a package of VA reforms put forth in response to the Phoenix VA wait list scandal.

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.