U.S. Senate passes VA reform bill

measure would make it easier to fire Veterans Affairs employees

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate passed a long-awaited reform bill Tuesday that makes it easier to fire employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill is part of a focus of the Trump administration to make reforming the ailing agency a priority. “We’re going to make the VA great again and we’re going to do it by firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down,” Trump said a month before the election at a rally in front of battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Virginia. The bill lowers the bar for firing a VA employee from a “preponderance” of evidence to “substantial” evidence of wrongdoing. Higher level officials within the organization would be held to a stricter standard. “I recognize there are many good, hard-working people at our local VA hospitals — many of them are veterans themselves,” said Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) on Tuesday. “It’s the unaccountable bureaucracy that hurts veterans and makes it impossible for them to get the timely care and benefits they deserve. What’s more, VA employees who are responsible for the backlogs, lying or manipulating wait times aren’t held accountable. Only in Washington would it take an act of Congress to fire employees who aren’t doing their jobs, and today we’re getting it done.”The bill comes after several years of scandals in which veterans complained of substandard care and long waiting lists for appointments. In 2014, at least 35 veterans reportedly died while waiting for appointments at the VA Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona sparking an investigation and national attention on the issue of veterans having to wait for lifesaving care. In April, VA Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., visited the VA hospital in Durham.”We are moving quickly to find that where there are bad employees, we root them out of the VA system, because we’re not going to tolerate employees that don’t match up to our values,” said Shulkin during his visit to Durham. He was joined at the podium by the Director of the Durham center, DeAnne Seekins. “But I will remind you – the vast majority of our employees are really among the best that we have in the country. I saw that today with just amazing dedication from employees here at this medical center.”Just a day before Shulkin’s visit to Durham, President Trump issued an executive order that created the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection with in the VA. The EO also ordered the review of disciplinary and other processes that critics say led to the problems within the agency. The bill passed by the Senate Tuesday and the House last month, is part of that effort. The passage of the @DeptVetAffairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is GREAT news for veterans! I look forward to signing it! pic.twitter.com/xNSEW7N3zd— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2017
It will now go to the White House for approval. Trump is expected to sign it by the end of the week.