Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced the “VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016,” a bill that would strengthen protections for whistleblowers and increase flexibility to remove VA employees for poor performance or misconduct. The bill would also reform the department’s disability benefits appeals process, which is a top priority for VA leaders and many veterans’ service organizations. Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Jeff Miller (R-FL-01), introduced the companion bill (H.R. 5620) in the House.
“For far too long, veterans have been victims of a broken and incompetent VA system,” said Rubio. “To make real progress in fixing the VA, we need to tackle the first problem plaguing the VA, which is the lack of accountability among employees. It is simply unacceptable that it can take years to fire one employee for poor management or misconduct.
“The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 goes further to address the excessive backlog of appeals found at the department that have spiraled out of control,” Rubio added. “To give our veterans the care they deserve, it is crucial this legislation is passed and signed into law.”
Chairman Miller and Senator Rubio have drafted this legislation to comply with recent guidance from the Justice Department (DOJ). Specifically, by addressing due process and appointments clause concerns in the previously-introduced VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994, S.1082). The revised bill will take away any doubt that these concerns have been addressed and will ensure that the VA Secretary can use expedited authority to manage the Department. Of note, H.R. 1994 passed the House with amendment in July of 2015, while S.1082 has been reported with amendment out of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
The revised legislation is also supported by a growing list of Veteran Service Organizations, including: The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Concerned Veterans for America, and Student Veterans of America.