Armed Forces News

The Senate is considering a bipartisan measure that would significantly reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the bill passes, the VA secretary would gain increased power to protect whistleblowers and fire poor performers.

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced the legislation, known as the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, on May 11. Isakson chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee; Isakson is the ranking Democrat.

Both VA Secretary David Shulkin and Deputy Secretary both have expressed support for the bill, which enhances comparable legislation that became law in 2014.

“To fully reform the VA and not able or willing to do their jobs,” said Rubio.

“Taxpayer dollars are veterans,” he said.

The bill includes provisions that would:

– Allow the VA secretary to punish or fire federal civil servants for misconduct.

– Allow the secretary to remove, demote or suspend for 14 days most non-senior executive service employees.

– Forbid the secretary from firing or retaliating against whistleblowers who have filed a complaint with the VA general counsel’s office.

– Make it easier for the secretary to rescind bonuses or relocation-expense reimbursements, or reduce retirement pension for Senior Executive Service employees who are convicted of a felony related to work performance.

– Have the VA establish training protocol for supervisors, to ensure they know how to address workplace problems.