Senate Approves Wicker, Cochran-Backed VA Accountability Bill
Bipartisan Majority Supports VA Accountability & Whistleblower Protection Act
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., today voted for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, legislation they cosponsored to make it easier to remove bad employees within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Senate approved the measure, S.1094, on a voice vote. The bipartisan legislation would improve accountability within the VA by giving the VA Secretary the ability to remove or penalize poor-performing VA employees. The measure also includes due process provisions to protect whistleblowers within the VA from retribution.
“This bill is a positive step forward for the nearly 200,000 veterans who rely upon the services of Mississippi’s two VA medical centers and eleven community-based outpatient clinics and veterans’ centers,” Wicker said. “It would ensure the VA Secretary can take swift action against employees if they are not delivering the quality care that our service members deserve.”
“This legislation would allow the Veterans Affairs Secretary greater authority to discipline employees who impede the delivery of care and benefits earned by our veterans,” Cochran said. “I hope strong support for this bill will help it become law soon.”
The legislation was authored to address substandard care provided to veterans by poor-performing VA employees, many of whom remain on the job under the protection of complex civil service and union rules that lengthen the disciplinary process.
S.1094 would allow the VA Secretary to remove, demote or suspend employees whose misconduct or performance warrants such action. It authorizes actions that may be taken after an employee is convicted of a felony related to work performance. The measure also establishes in law the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for employees to report major problems at the VA without facing termination or retaliation.
VA Secretary David Shulkin supports passage of the measure. Major veterans’ service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Concerned Veterans for America, have also endorsed the legislation.
Randy Reeves, executive director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board and president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, also supported the legislation.
“The bill artfully strikes the delicate balance between holding accountable those who are charged with caring for and serving our nation’s veterans and, at the same time, protecting the due process rights of those dedicated professionals whose sole mission and aim is to do their very best, every day, for our veterans,” Reeves said.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont. It builds on reforms enacted in the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.
A one-page summary of provisions in S.1094 is available here: http://bit.ly/2sB4DnO