VA Legislation Roundup: Employee Bonuses, Marijuana, and Canine Medical Research

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By on July 27, 2017 in Agency News with 0 Comments

The House of Representatives issued votes this week on legislation that would govern regulations at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Putting a Spotlight on Employee Bonuses

The House passed a bill that would require the VA to submit an annual report to Congress about high-dollar bonuses paid to senior agency executives.

The report would have to be submitted within 120 days of the end of each fiscal year and would contain the amount of each award or bonus, the job title of each recipient and the location where each recipient works. It would apply to bonuses awarded to Regional Office Directors, Directors of Medical Centers, Directors of Veterans Integrated Service Networks, and any other individual employed in a senior executive position.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Bonus Transparency Act (H.R. 1690) was introduced by Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (R-NY). She says the bill is needed to increase oversight and transparency of the VA.

She said in a statement:

In too many facilities across the country, senior-level VA personnel have received bonuses from the VA despite poor performance or outright negligence. This bill would simply increase oversight, ensuring that our veterans, who have made the selfless sacrifice to bravely serve our great nation, receive the highest quality of care possible.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Medical Marijuana Use by Veterans

The House Rules Committee blocked a vote on an amendment that would have allowed VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana as an option for patient treatment in states where it is legal.

Image of marijuana leaf

Because marijuana is illegal under federal law, the VA is currently prohibited from using it as a form of medical treatment.

The amendment’s sponsor, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was quite displeased with the House vote.

He said in a statement:

All we want is equal treatment for our wounded warriors. This provision overwhelmingly passed on the House floor last year – and bipartisan support has only grown. It’s outrageous that the Rules Committee won’t even allow a vote for our veterans. They deserve better. They deserve compassion.

Given that veterans are more likely to commit suicide or die from opiate overdoses than civilians, our fight to provide them safer alternatives won’t stop here. We have stronger support in the House and Senate than ever before, and we will keep advocating for a more rational approach.

Banning Inhumane Medical Tests on Dogs

The House also voted this week to prohibit the VA from performing medical tests that cause pain to dogs.

image of a happy labrador retriever

The amendment that was approved is based on the Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species Act (PUPPERS Act – H.R. 3197) which was introduced by Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA).

Brat said that the Office of Research Oversight at the Department of Veterans Affairs found evidence of extensive violations of federal animal welfare regulations, internal policies, and research protocols at the McGuire VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Richmond, Virginia where dogs reportedly were given amphetamines and experienced induced heart attacks.

Consequently, he issued the following statement about the bill:

The revelations regarding the dog laboratory testing at McGuire VAMC are disturbing and the descriptions are almost on the scale of torture.

We must have quality health care for our veterans and the best medical research, but I believe there are alternative and more humane methods that can lead to similar medical breakthroughs. It is clear from this investigation the conditions at the McGuire VAMC in Richmond are not meeting the highest standards and healthy puppies are suffering through induced heart attack studies as a result.

Our bill sets clearly defined expectations for medical research and will prohibit research at taxpayer-funded VA facilities that causes significant pain or distress for puppies.

The amendment would prohibit the VA from spending any money on this type of medical research. The House approved the amendment by voice vote and it will now go before the House for a vote as part of four national security appropriations bills.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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