As a candidate for president, Donald Trump put forth a ten-step plan in which he promised to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. President Trump said in a recent press conference that he believes the reform plan is moving along “ahead of schedule.”
“We are working to put that plan into effect, and it’s moving, I think I can say honestly, ahead of schedule,” said Trump.
The House has passed two bills recently that fall within the steps outlined in Trump’s reform plan. One bill passed last week would make it easier to fire VA employees for poor performance or misconduct. It also would allow the VA secretary to recoup bonuses paid to employees who engaged in misconduct. The bill also includes provisions to provided increased protections for whistleblowers.
This bill coincides with some of the steps in the original reform plan. One goal said, “Congress [shall] pass legislation that empowers the Secretary of the VA to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety or well-being of a veteran.” Another promised to “stop giving bonuses to any VA employees who are wasting money.” And yet another promised to “protect and promote honest employees at the VA who highlight wrongdoing, and he will guarantee their jobs will be protected,” clearly aimed at protecting whistleblowers.
The Washington Examiner reported that one of the attendees at Trump’s press conference said that the president is interested in “ramping up the removal of substandard VA employees.” According to the Washington Examiner:
“At one point the president said that he wants Secretary Shulkin to start firing people as soon as possible,” the attendee said. “President Trump was very passionate about allowing Dr. Shulkin to fire bad VA employees.”
Another item from the reform plan promised to “increase the number of mental health care professionals, and allow veterans’ to be able to seek mental health care outside of the VA.” A bill recently passed by the House would arguably coincide with that goal. H.R 1367 aims to streamline hiring procedures within the VA and as well as taking measures to make potential employees aware of positions at the agency while also creating opportunities for career training and advancement for current VA employees.
It remains to be seen if these bills will pass the Senate and be signed into law. They may also be amended as they move through the legislative process.