NEW YORK, NY – June 23rd – United Spinal Association’s VetsFirst program praises the passage of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that was signed into law today by President Trump.
VetsFirst actively promoted for the passage of the bill over the past three years via its lobbying efforts, grassroots and media engagement.
VetsFirst, which advised Congress on significant portions of the law, was joined at the White House along with allied veterans service organizations (VSOs), Members of Congress and veterans from around the country for the signing.
The new bipartisan bill is a significant reform that will aid the VA leadership to maintain a healthy workforce by removing bad employees more efficiently, protect whistle blowers and fulfill its mission more effectively.
“VetsFirst had prioritized accountability and workforce reform at the VA as its #1 priority in 2017 and we are proud to have been part of getting the job done,” said Iraq War Veteran Christopher Neiweem, Director of VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association.
"No longer will a VA leader be allowed to make decisions that run contrary to VA's values--or worse--put veterans lives in danger and be retained for ridiculously long periods of times, while the veteran community is put on hold trying to secure a justified outcome for situations that clearly involve wrong doing,” added Neiweem.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 would:
Create a new streamlined and efficient process to remove, demote or suspend (for longer than 14 days) any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct with a concrete shortened timeline, while still protecting employees’ due process rights, and would provide them with the right to appeal the action.
Provide expanded protections for whistleblowers and would specifically bar VA from using this removal authority if the employee has an open whistleblower complaint/case with the Office of Special Counsel.
Provide the Secretary with the authority to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus; and allow the Secretary to 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.
Authorize the Secretary to directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) if they have a demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration or health care fiscal management. This will make it easier to fill these critical positions quickly.