Mar 02 2017
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today introduced the VA Accountability First Act, legislation that would provide the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) increased flexibility to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct, including Senior Executive Service employees. House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) introduced the VA Accountability First Act in the House.
“For far too long, incompetent and uncaring employees at the VA have been allowed to fail at their jobs but still keep them,” said Rubio. “In the past, we’ve passed measures to institute accountability but lacked a president and VA secretary who would actually implement them and fire VA employees who are failing our veterans. Now it’s time to finally provide our veterans with the quality, efficient health care they have earned and deserve, instead of protecting the big labor unions seeking to keep the status quo of incompetence and malfeasance.
“The VA Accountability First Act will give the VA secretary increased flexibility to remove, demote, or suspend VA employees who fail to take care of our veterans,” Rubio added. “I am pleased President Trump has made this issue a priority, and I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin to hold VA employees at all levels accountable for their performance and ensure our veterans are no longer ignored or mistreated.”
“I’ve said time and time again that the vast majority of VA employees are hardworking and have the best interests of our veterans at heart, but there are still too many bad apples within the department,” said Roe. “Our veterans deserve better, and the VA employees who fulfill their duties deserve better. I thank Senator Rubio for partnering with me to introduce this important legislation, and I look forward to working with him to get this bill to President Trump’s desk.”
A recent study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, on average, it takes six months to a year to remove a permanent civil servant in the federal government, though it often takes longer. Just last year, former VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified that it was too hard to fire bad employees at VA. In the past several years, the VA’s arcane civil service rules have hampered the department’s ability to dismiss an employee that engaged in an armed robbery; discipline a VA nurse that participated in a veteran’s surgery while intoxicated; and hold employees accountable for the continued failures to manage several major construction projects that are overdue and over budget.
In 2014, Rubio succeeded in passing the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014 into law.
The VA Accountability First Act would provide improved protections for whistleblowers; empower the VA secretary to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; allow the VA secretary to recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus, or recoup any relocation expenses that were authorized for a VA employee only through the employee’s ill-gotten means, such as fraud, waste or malfeasance.