Trump signs 'historic' bill to transform VA

Caroline Beck
June 24, 2017

President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law legislation giving the Department of Veterans Affairs more power to fire failed employees and protect whistleblowers who uncover wrongdoing at the agency. "The bill also establishes the Office of Accountability, which forbids the VA Secretary from retaliating against whistleblowers who have filed complaints within the VA general counsel's office".

"What happened was a national disgrace", Trump said, "and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls". "Today we are finally changing those laws".

The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care.

While holding private-sector employees accountable is common, many government employees - particularly those working at the Department of Veterans Affairs - have abused the system.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said during a May White House visit that the VA was "forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence".

Trump says the law represents one of the biggest reforms to the VA in a generation or more. This legislation, based largely off a bill I authored that passed the House with bipartisan support earlier this year, provides the VA Secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior Executive Service employees, for poor performance or misconduct. It passed the Senate by a unanimous voice vote.

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The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version - 180 days versus 45 days.

"Every veteran receiving care at VA facilities will now know that those entrusted with their care can be held responsible for their actions".

"In just a short time, we've already achieved transformative change at the VA - and believe me, we're just getting started", Trump said.

"The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible", McCarthy said.

In the past several years, VA's civil service rules have kept the department from firing an employee who engaged in an armed robbery; from recouping $400,000 in relocation benefits from two senior employees who abused their authority; and from holding employees accountable for their failures to manage major construction projects, including the new hospital in Aurora, Colorado, that is now several years and almost a billion dollars over-budget.

President Donald Trump signs the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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