Just before recessing for the year, the Senate passed S-221, which would bar the VA from entering into settlement agreements in disciplinary cases against medical personnel that would obligate the department to “conceal a serious medical error or a lapse in generally-accepted standards of clinical practice.”
The measure follows a GAO report finding that the VA had done so in some settlement agreements. The new restriction would not apply if the department’s office of accountability and whistleblower protection or the Office of Special Counsel “jointly certify that the negative record is not legitimate.”
The measure also contains new requirements that the department make sure that job candidates have the required professional certifications, that current employees remain in good standing, and that lapses are reported to a national data bank. Those provisions are similar to those recently passed by the House in a separate bill (HR-3530) that does not however include similar language regarding settlement agreements.