"For far too long, the VA has been unable to remove bad actors who either harm veterans or fail in their duties to serve our nation’s heroes.”
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans’ Affairs and Related Agencies, joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues in introducing the Department of Veterans Affairs accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 1094).
The legislation would reform the VA by allowing the VA Secretary to dismiss bad employees and ensure due process protections for whistleblowers.
"For far too long, the VA has been unable to remove bad actors who either harm veterans or fail in their duties to serve our nation’s heroes,” Moran said. “This legislation will make certain the VA has the authority to terminate employees and protect whistleblowers. Additionally, this bill holds VA employees accountable by making certain they do not receive the same benefits as honest, hardworking VA employees if they are found guilty of a felony related to their employment. I will continue to demand accountability to help ensure veterans are supported by a department worthy of their service and sacrifice.”
VA Secretary David Shulkin has repeatedly expressed support for accountability legislation, and Deputy Under Secretary Dr. Carolyn Clancy reiterated this position during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on preventing veteran suicide that Moran chaired last month.
Specifically, the legislation would:
n Authorize the secretary to reprimand, suspend, involuntarily reassign, demote, or remove a covered individual from a senior executive service position, including removal from civil service, if the secretary determines that their misconduct or performance warrants such an action, subject to a VA-internal grievance process established by the secretary that must be completed within 21 days.
n Authorize the secretary to remove, demote or suspend employees for longer than 14 days without pay, subject to an appeal of their removal or demotion to the MSPB for most non-senior executive service employees. The MSBP would then have 180 days to complete an expedited appeal and render a final decision subject to judicial review by the U.S. Federal Circuit.
n Protect whistleblowers from retaliation by not allowing the secretary to use this authority to fire employees who have filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.
The proposal would also establish an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection for employees to bring to light major problems at the VA without losing their job or facing retaliation.
n Streamline authority for the secretary to rescind an employee’s bonus or relocation expense reimbursement if the secretary deems it appropriate, and allow reduction to an SES employee’s retirement pension upon their conviction of a felony related to work performance.
n Require the VA to provide periodic training to each supervisor on the rights of whistleblowers; how to address a report by an employee of a hostile work environment, reprisal, or harassment; how to effectively motivate, manage, and reward employees; and how to effectively manage employees who are performing at an unacceptable level.
n Authorize the secretary to directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network if they have demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration or health care fiscal management.
n Require the VA to provide reports to Congress on employee morale and the types of administrative action taken against employees and their effectiveness in disciplining employees.
S. 1094 is supported by numerous organizations including Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, American Veterans, Concerned Veterans for America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Reserve Officers Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Project on Government Oversight, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Got Your 6 and Military Officers Association of America.