President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan supported act into law Friday that will increase protections for whistleblowers at the Department of Veteran Affairs and make it easier to fire wrongdoers.
“Thank you President Trump and [Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin] for ensuring that we receive the care we need and deserve,” Sergeant Michael Verardo, who lost a leg in Afghanistan and faced lengthy waiting times said at a White House signing ceremony.
Improving the scandal-ridden VA was a campaign promise of President Trump’s. He said in a September campaign speech that “our veterans, in many cases, are being treated worse than illegal immigrants.”
Trump stated at the signing ceremony that his administration is “just getting started” at improving the agency. The president said that the U.S. has a duty to help veterans and that “we will never forget what you all did for us, never.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act hopes to solve issues at the VA through several means, one of which is giving the VA Secretary more freedom to fire employees, as well as the ability to dock bonuses and pensions of high-level officials.
The act will also shorten the appeals process for an employee who faces termination and not allow them to get paid during the appeal.
VA Secretary David Shulkin said during a May White House visit that the VA was “forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence.”
He added, “We need new accountability legislation and we need that now.” Shulkin, who served as an undersecretary in the VA in the Obama administration, supports the legislation Trump signed Friday.
The act will also create an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. Whistleblowers have revealed several VA scandals such as the long wait times officials were covering up.