06.06.17

Rounds Statement on Senate Passage of VA Accountability Legislation

Bill would give VA Secretary the ability to make real reforms, improve the quality of care for veterans

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, today made the following statement on the Senate passage of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This bipartisan bill would reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by allowing the secretary to remove bad employees and protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Rounds is an original cosponsor of this legislation.

 

“Today, the Senate took another step toward improving care for our nation’s veterans,” said Rounds. “The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will hold bad VA employees accountable for inappropriate actions and allow whistleblowers necessary safeguards, while protecting the hardworking VA employees who remain dedicated to providing quality care to our veterans. I look forward to this legislation quickly passing the House of Representatives and getting it to the president’s desk so Secretary Shulkin can begin implementing these much-needed changes.”

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act increases the VA’s authority to fire employees at all levels of the department, shortens the removal process and makes certain an individual removed from the VA is not kept on the VA’s payroll while appealing that decision. It will also make it easier for the VA to remove poor performing senior executives and replace them with qualified candidates. Additionally, any appeals by senior VA executives would no longer be brought before the Merit Systems Protection Board, but instead would be handled directly by the VA secretary under an expedited timeline.

 

The legislation also includes a number of other provisions to hold employees accountable, including:

 

  • Requires the VA to evaluate supervisors based on the protection of whistleblowers;
  • Incentivizes managers to address poor performance and misconduct among employees by requiring the VA secretary to include this as part of the annual performance plan;
  • Prohibits bonuses for employees who have been found guilty of wrongdoing; and
  • Prohibits relocation expenses to employees who abuse the system.

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is widely supported by key veterans stakeholders including the VA and U.S. House VA committee leadership. It has also won the support of numerous veterans advocacy groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States and key government accountability groups.

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