The Senate passed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act on Tuesday, which empowers Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to fire incompetent employees.
With the passage of the bill by voice vote Tuesday evening, senators hope to give President Donald Trump the legislation to sign into law by the end of June.
The bill reduces the time it takes to fire poorly performing employees and ensures they don’t get paid while they’re in the appeals process. Shulkin would be able to fire senior executives in a 21-day process. Regular employees have an appeal process of no more than 180 days.
The legislation also allows the VA to take back bonuses if an employee is convicted of a job-related felony.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, a sponsor of the bill, said ineffective governance at the VA is unfair to veterans who “have sacrificed much for our country.”
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), a right-leaning veterans’ advocacy organization, applauded the passage of the bill.
“Tonight, the Senate passed a significant piece of VA reform that will help turn the troubled department around,” CVA policy director Dan Caldwell said in a statement. “When this bill is signed into law, Secretary Shulkin will be able to get poor performers out quickly and drive a new culture of integrity, customer focus, and work ethic within the VA. The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better than the level of service they’ve been getting. Veterans across the country were paying close attention to who supported this effort. It was long overdue.”
Most major veterans’ service organizations have backed the bill.
Shulkin has increased calls over the last couple of months to pass the legislation, directly citing examples of abysmal employees that are allowed to continue working at the VA because the department’s hands are tied. One of the examples Shulkin has cited is the case of Brittney Lowe, senior interior designer at the Memphis, Tenn., VA, who was permitted to return to work, despite serving a 60-day sentence for driving under the influence, which she has been convicted of three times now.
The legislation is now moving to the House, where it is expected to pass easily.
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