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Days Before Memorial Day, Senate Democrats Block Vote For More VA Accountability

May 22, 2014 | Comunicados de Prensa

Rubio’s push to pass VA reform bill blocked

Senate Floor Speech
May 22, 2014

“[…] One of the things that we’re learning is not simply that there’s a systemic problem in the veterans administration, but that there’s been a deliberate effort – by some within the administration, of some within the veterans administration – to cover it up or to make things look better than they actually are. And that should trouble us even more, because the immediate reaction when an agency is confronted with a problem should be, ‘We need to fix this.’ And instead, the reaction by some seems to be, ‘We need to cover this. We need to make this look better than it really is. We need to diminish this.’ That is completely unacceptable, and people need to be held accountable to this.

“If, in the United States Senate, among the men and women that serve and work here for us, someone was derelict in their duty, they would lose their jobs. If in the private sector someone did not do their job, they would lose that job. In the military chain command, if a commanding officer of a unit did not do his or her job, they would lose their job. And their superiors would have the ability to immediately discipline them. And so I think many Americans would be shocked to learn that even if the Secretary wanted, today, to fire executive managers within the agency, he cannot. Instead, he has to institute a long and drawn-out process — leading to this absurd conclusion that you are likelier to receive a bonus or a promotion than you are to have been fired because of mismanagement and dereliction of duty. And that is completely unacceptable.

“Now, I think one thing we have to remember here is that the enormous and vast majority of the VA’s more than 300,000 employees and executives are dedicated and hardworking people. Their department’s well-documented reluctance to ensure that leaders are being held accountable for mistakes is not only tarnishing its reputation, it unfortunately is impacting many of these hardworking men and women who are doing their jobs within the agency.”  

“And so here’s where we stand: I’ve come to this floor today to give my colleagues the opportunity to send this to the President before we leave for the Memorial Day recess. We have an opportunity, right now, to take up the bill that the House just passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority – enacted into law by unanimous consent – and send it to the President so he can sign it. So that a week from now, and a month from now, when the results of that investigation come to his desk and that of the Secretary, they can discipline and/or fire the people who have not done their jobs and have put our veterans in harm’s way with regard to the services the VA is supposed to be offering. That is all this bill does. Nothing more and nothing less. 

“We are giving a Secretary, appointed by this President, confirmed by this Senate, the opportunity to be able to fire employees of his agency that are not doing their jobs. That is all we are asking here. It is not more complicated than that. And I do not understand why anyone would not support that concept. And it’s right here for us. For everyone talking about how quickly we need to act on this — here is your chance.”