A bipartisan Senate bill must deliver reforms making it easier to fire Department of Veterans Affairs employees — reforms sorely needed since 2014’s wait-time scandal at the VA’s Phoenix medical center.
With co-sponsors including the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the bill modifies one the House passed in March and is supported by key backers of that legislation, according to media reports. It would eliminate bonuses awarded erroneously, reduce pensions for workers convicted of job-related felonies and codify a new VA whistleblower protection office, which President Trump created via an April executive order.
VA Secretary David Shulkin would have authority to fire executives via a 21-day grievance process. And while the Senate bill would cap rank-and-file workers’ firing appeals at 180 days, rather than the House bill’s 45 days, they wouldn’t be paid while appealing. The bill also would lower — from “preponderance” to “substantial” — the VA’s burden of proof regarding evidence for firings.
There are myriad reasons why untold numbers of VA heads should roll: veterans dying while VA employees conceal long wait times; VA employees stealing opioids; VA hospitals operating without proper inventory controls and postponing surgeries for lack of necessary sterile equipment. Swiftly making this Senate bill law will give the VA what it needs to clean up its act — and honorably fulfill its sacred duty to all who’ve worn America’s uniform.
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