Lawmakers try again to accelerate discipline of VA employees; union fights back


Lawmakers try again to accelerate discipline of VA employees; union fights back

by: Nikki Wentling | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: March 03, 2017

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are trying again – this time with support from the Department of Veterans Affairs – to give the VA secretary more power to fire, demote or suspend poor-performing employees and recoup their bonuses.

Complementary bills were introduced in the House and Senate this week to give VA Secretary David Shulkin those authorities. The legislation would also shorten the timeline VA employees have to appeal any disciplinary action against them and require quicker determinations from the Merit Systems Protection Board, which hears the appeals.

“[T]here are still too many bad apples within the department. Our veterans deserve better, and the VA employees who fulfill their duties deserve better,” Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in a written statement. “I’m proud to have worked with President [Donald] Trump and his administration on this legislation to bring long overdue accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Tuesday released text of the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, sponsored by Roe. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the companion bill Thursday.

Last year, there was outcry from the veterans community when the Merit Systems Protection Board reversed the VA’s attempt to fire two executives who were found to have manipulated the hiring system to move to positions of lesser responsibility while maintaining the same salary. Lawmakers and veterans organizations, along with Shulkin and Trump, have pushed for increased accountability as a way to root out a perceived culture of corruption in the department.

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