Brooks Votes to Hold VA Accountable and Provide Veterans with Better Care
Washington, D.C. – Today, the House voted on bipartisan legislation to help our veterans get better care and better results from the Veterans Administration (VA). Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN05) voted in favor of S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. While the vast majority of VA employees are hardworking and dedicated, in recent years, disturbing reports have revealed that the VA has failed to hold individuals who are not fulfilling their duties or have committed crimes accountable for their actions. In some instances, the VA has tried to discipline or dismiss an employee, but the process is so administratively complex that it can take more than year, or be delayed indefinitely. Next, S. 1094 will head to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Reports that the VA was unable to discipline a nurse who participated in surgery while intoxicated or dismiss an employee that engaged in armed robbery should outrage every American, and the thousands of honest men and women who serve our veterans ably each day as employees of the VA,” Brooks said. “This bill provides for a more efficient and effective process to discipline and fire bad actors in the VA, while still protecting every employee’s right to due process under the law. I’m hopeful that this legislation will help the VA and its employees offer our veterans better, more timely care and benefits—benefits that they have earned and deserve.”
The VA has been plagued by scandals in recent years. We learned in 2014 that at least 40 of our veterans died while waiting for doctor’s appointments and medical care on secret wait lists at the Pheonix VA hospital. It was later revealed that similar wait lists were being manipulated across the country. Additionally, sharp increases in opioid theft were investigated at VA hospitals earlier this year and more than one-third of calls to the VA’s suicide hotline went unanswered last year.
“More accountability at the VA is required to effectively discipline or dismiss those employees who aren’t serving our veterans and who don’t perform their duties,” Brooks continued. “This is a bipartisan issue. Moreover, it’s the mission of the Veterans Administration and the vast majority of its employees to provide high-quality, timely care to our veterans. But, the VA should have the ability to discipline or dismiss employees who aren’t living up to this mission, and that’s what this bill does.”
S. 1094 would create a new streamlined and efficient process to remove, demote or suspend 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. It would also 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.
The House passed H.R. 1259, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, on March 16, 2017, with Brooks’ support. The Senate passed S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, on June 6, 2017.