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Our Veterans Deserve Accountability & Reform

Sep 16, 2015 | Blog

It’s been over a year since I helped pass legislation to give the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) secretary the authority to fire senior management based on performance. But with only a few officials reportedly removed from their positions since then and too many veterans still denied care due to outrageous backlogs, the Obama Administration is still dragging its feet on bringing real change to the VA.
Last month, it was revealed that veterans’ disability claims were deliberately and wrongfully shredded by VA employees in Los Angeles, despite existing policies prohibiting such practice. Inadequate or improper training of VA employees is inexcusable, and I am concerned that this callous destruction of documentation is not unique to the staff in the Los Angles VA Regional Office, but is part of a larger cultural problem at the VA. It is one of my deepest concerns to see that the VA improves to better serve our veterans, so today I urged the VA to complete their investigation of the VA Regional Office in St. Petersburg for any similar instances and to send me the final report as soon as it is complete.
The reforms to begin fixing the VA are right there in the law, but now the president and VA secretary actually need to fully implement them and root out the unacceptable shortcomings we have seen in this system. So today I also urged VA Deputy Inspector General Linda Halliday, to look into how many VA officials and employees in the State of Florida, and throughout the nation, have faced disciplinary action because of excessive waits for VA health care appointments and continued delays in decisions on VA disability compensation claims and appeals.
The stall in holding senior managers with bad performance accountable makes it clear that additional authorities are needed to deal with the full scope of the problems at the VA. That’s why I introduced the “Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015” earlier this year. This new legislation will leave the VA secretary with no excuse but to hold people accountable for the dysfunction and incompetence plaguing our VA system, while protecting whistleblowers from retaliation. We must show our veterans the respect they have earned by removing any employees with terrible performance from the system our veterans rely on.