Legislation was introduced in the Senate this week to expedite the removal process for Veterans Affairs employees.
The bill was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and is companion legislation to a bill introduced last week in the House by Congressman Jeff Miller (R-FL). The House bill, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5620), would, among other things, remove the MSPB appeals process for VA senior executives and shorten the firing/demotion/appeals process for rank-and-file VA employees from more than a year on average to no more than 77 days.
Rubio’s bill (S. 3170) aims to strengthen protections for whistleblowers, increase flexibility to remove VA employees for poor performance or misconduct, and reform the VA’s disability benefits appeals process by instituting the same provisions as the House version. The revised bills also make changes to a past reform bill that was introduced, the VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994, S.1082), to comply with the Justice Department’s due process and appointments clause concerns and ensure that the VA secretary can use expedited authority to manage the Department. The past version of the VA Accountability Act passed the House but did not advance out of committee in the Senate.
Rubio said in a statement, “To make real progress in fixing the VA, we need to tackle the first problem plaguing the VA, which is the lack of accountability among employees. It is simply unacceptable that it can take years to fire one employee for poor management or misconduct. The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 goes further to address the excessive backlog of appeals found at the department that have spiraled out of control. To give our veterans the care they deserve, it is crucial this legislation is passed and signed into law.”