Tuesday, 17 October, 2017

Trump signs 'historic' bill to transform VA

Warren Dawson | 24 June, 2017, 01:21

The legislation fulfills a major promise made by the President on the campaign trail, frequently vowing to fire VA workers "who let our veterans down".

"The administration is committed to ensuring the nation's veterans have access to the care, services, and benefits they have earned", the White House said in a statement picked up by USA Today.

President Donald Trump has signed a bill into law created to make it easier to fire Department of Veterans Affairs employees.

The Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act passed the house by a 368-55 vote earlier in June, CNN reports.

Watch above, via The White House. Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable.

The VA scandal during the Obama administration engulfed the department, leading to the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki after CNN uncovered the existence of a secret scheduling list at the VA in Phoenix.

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Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, "In a nasty, partisan environment like we've never seen, veterans' issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans". Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill "will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation". The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker's favor.

Shulkin pushed for this kind of reform bill during his confirmation process and in the first months of his tenure, arguing that the department was "still in critical condition" and more accountability was needed to improve the treatment veterans receive.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. The measure passed the House and Senate with broad bipartisan support.

Right now, it takes up to 264 days for an appeal to move through the process when trying to remove a bad employee. "This historic bill is a significant step forward in the fight to correct the toxic VA culture and get veterans a step closer to the care they deserve", added CVA Executive Director Mark Lucas.

Under the new law, protections for whistleblowers will be expanded and the VA will be prevented from dismissing an employee who has an open complaint against the department.

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