COCHRAN-BACKED VA ACCOUNTABILITY BILL APPROVED BY COMMITTEE
VA Accountability & Whistleblower Protection Act Cleared for Senate Consideration
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today approved legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) to improve services for veterans by allowing bad employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to be dismissed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 (S.1094) is a bipartisan measure intended to improve accountability within the VA by giving the Secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to remove or penalize poor-performing VA employees. The measure also includes due process protections for whistleblowers.
“Most employees within the Department of Veterans Affairs are dedicated to serving our nation’s veterans, but reports of bad actors have made clear the need for greater accountability within the VA,” Cochran said. “I hope these changes will help the VA better meet our obligations to veterans.”
The committee approved the bill on a voice vote, making it available for consideration by the Senate.
Currently, many VA employees are protected by complex civil service and union rules that lengthen the disciplinary process and keep proven bad employees on the job. Broadly, this legislation would allow the VA Secretary to remove, demote or suspend employees whose misconduct or performance warrants such action. It also authorizes actions that may be taken after an employee is convicted of a felony related to work performance.
The measure would establish an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for employees to report major problems at the VA without facing termination or retaliation.
The bill is supported by VA Secretary David Shulkin and major veterans service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Concerned Veterans for America.
Introduced by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the bill builds on reforms enacted in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.