Buchanan-Backed VA Accountability Bill Signed into Law
WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today that sweeping legislation to give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to remove, suspend or reprimand any bad employee has been signed into law. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which Buchanan supported, passed the U.S. House last week.
“We are one step closer to fixing the VA,” Buchanan said. “This bipartisan overhaul will give the VA secretary the tools necessary to fire or discipline employees who do not meet the standards our veterans deserve.”
Specifically, the legislation would lower the burden of proof needed to fire VA employees and give the VA secretary increased flexibility to reduce a bad employee’s pension as well as recoup bonuses and relocation expenses.
The process for firing or demoting VA employees is so administratively complex and lengthy that punishment is often indefinitely delayed and rarely results in terminations. The new law also strengthens protections for whistleblowers and codifies into law the creation of a permanent “Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection” within the department.
It has been three years since it was first revealed that VA employees across the country were falsifying waiting lists to conceal delays in veterans’ treatment. This horrific practice resulted in the deaths of thousands of veterans and the ensuing scandal forced the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is supported by many of the nation’s largest veteran service organizations, including the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars, among others.
“The men and women who serve our country in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer,” Buchanan said.