In a Press Release issued on Friday, March 31, the Veterans Affairs (VA) announced they officially support accountability legislation that would allow newly appointed Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to expediently remove employees that are unfit for employment.
This came shortly after one VA employee was caught watching pornography while with a patient at the Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
Under current legislation, the VA is forced to wait 30 days from when the removal is proposed to terminate the employee. In the interim, the employee is still being paid and placed in an administrative position; limiting his patient interaction.
“This is an example of why we need accountability legislation as soon as possible,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin. “Current legislation in Congress reduces the amount of time we have to wait before taking action.”
- The VA can more easily fire, demote, suspend, or discipline employees for alleged misconduct or poor performance,
- The time period for employees to appeal demotions, suspensions, or firing is reduced from 30 days to seven days,
- An Administrative Judge with the Merit Systems Protection Board (an independent third party) is prohibited from reducing the proposed penalty to the employee,
- The VA can take back retirement benefits and bonuses of its employees if they are convicted of a felony that the agency deems is related to the employee’s job.
However, not everyone agrees that the VA Accountability First Act is all that it’s cracked up to be; stating that this bill has the potential to deter qualified applicants from seeking employment with the VA.
In one such case, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr., who served as a VA nurse for more than 20 years, immediately decried the proposed legislation, saying:
“Once again, some lawmakers have completely ignored the evidence that the VA provides veterans the best – and only – integrated healthcare system tailored entirely to their needs. Instead of hiring the more than 45,000 frontline caregivers are veterans desperately need, they’d rather spend their time sticking it to the people who serve veterans every day.”
Regardless of the differing opinions on the VA Accountability First Act, its clear that both the leadership within the VA and Congress are in support of this legislation and are moving forward.
The measure has now moved to the House floor; however there is no timeline for a vote. In addition, Concerned Veterans for America has launched an ad campaign targeting 30 House members encouraging them to support the bill.
Tell us your thoughts. Do you support the VA Accountability First Act of 2017?