Legislation (HR-611 and S-152) has been reintroduced in Congress to limit disciplinary appeals rights for all VA employees, part of the continuing reaction to the scandal over manipulated patient wait time records there. For most employees a final decision on any MSPB appeal would be required within 60 days, while rights to appeal from there into federal court would remain. For executives, the bill would require all appeals to go to newly created senior executive disciplinary appeals boards, consisting of three departmental officials who would hear appeals and who would have to issue decisions within 21 days or else the discipline would stand automatically. Further, the board would have to uphold the action if there is only “substantial” evidence to support it and the action is within the “tolerable bounds of reasonableness.” In addition: the VA could recoup any awards or relocation payments already paid on a later finding of misconduct by the employee; where executives are found to have committed work-related felonies, their annuities would be reduced for the pertinent period; and protections for whistleblowers would be strengthened. The bill mirrors one that passed the House, although not the Senate, last year.
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