Sens. Moran, Manchin, Rubio Introduce Legislation to Restore Accountability at the VA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced the Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ authority to hold bad employees accountable. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mike Bost (R-Ill.) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“Quality employees help ensure veterans receive the best care possible at the VA,” said Sen. Moran, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “While the VA employs some of the finest men and women, it only takes a few bad employees to disrupt the culture and service at the VA, which negatively impacts veterans. Veterans are best served when VA leaders have the ability to swiftly take action to remove bad employees in order to maintain a healthy workplace and, more importantly, provide quality services for our veterans. This bill would restore the intent of Congress and put our veterans first.”

“Our nation’s Veterans deserve a VA that holds itself accountable and delivers the care that they need and have earned,” said Sen. Manchin, member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “This bipartisan legislation would give VA leaders the ability to break through the bureaucracy and discipline employees for misconduct while protecting whistleblowers. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this commonsense legislation to strengthen accountability at the VA and to improve the quality of care for America’s Veterans.”

“In 2017, I led the bipartisan effort to ensure the VA could fire bad employees and protect whistleblowers,” said Sen. Rubio. “The Biden Administration’s failure to defend the important authorities in the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in court is disappointing. I’m proud to work with my colleagues to ensure my landmark legislation is being implemented as intended.”

“It’s vitally important that any VA Secretary have the tools they need to run a successful organization and deliver our veterans with the top-notch care, benefits, and services they have earned,” said Rep. Bost, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “In order to best serve veterans, the VA Secretary must have the authority to quickly and fairly remove, demote, or suspend bad employees who are undermining the quality of services that our veterans have earned. The bipartisan 2017 VA Accountability Act gave the Secretary that authority. Yet, administrative courts have issued decisions that ignore Congress’s intent by limiting the law’s applicability, leading VA to declare the 2017 law unusable. As its stand today, the Secretary’s hands are tied and failing employees continue to be employed at VA. That is unacceptable to me. Which is why I am proud to join my friend, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Senator Moran, in introducing the Restore VA Accountability Act. Our legislation is simple and straightforward: it would reinstate the intent of Congress by giving VA the authority to quickly and fairly discipline bad employees and strengthen VA’s ability to hold unsatisfactory middle managers accountable. We’ve heard from too many whistleblowers that bad VA employees are impacting care and hurting employee morale. Our bill will bring accountability back to VA for good.”

In 2017 the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act overwhelmingly passed Congress in response to the nationwide VA access crisis that exposed a toxic workforce culture at the VA negatively impacting veterans’ care. Passage of this legislation gave VA leaders the ability to break through the bureaucracy and hold bad employees accountable, providing VA employees with a healthier workplace and increasing veterans’ trust in the VA.

Unfortunately, recent decisions from the Federal Circuit, the Federal Labor Relations Authority and the Merit Systems Protection Board rendered the authority provided in the Accountability Act unusable for most of the VA workforce.

The Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act would:

  • Ensure VA decisions supported by substantial evidence are upheld on appeal.
  • Negate the requirement for a performance improvement plan prior to disciplinary action.
  • Unlock expedited removal, demotion or suspension authority for use with all categories of VA employees.
  • Align the disciplinary authority for unsatisfactory VA managers and supervisors with the process currently in place for members of the Senior Executive Service.

Sens. Moran and Manchin introduced the VA Provider Accountability Act in 2021, which was signed into law.

A one-pager explanation of the bill can be found HERE. Text of the legislation can be found HERE.

Quotes of Support: 

“Our veterans deserve to know that poor performance will not be tolerated at the Department of Veterans Affairs and that accountability measures are in place to protect hardworking employees and whistleblowers from retaliation,” said Vincent J. “Jim” Troiola, National Commander, The American Legion. “The ‘Restore VA Accountability Act’ would reaffirm the intent of 2017's “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act” by providing VA leadership the tools it needs to ensure veterans are served by quality employees in the wake of recent court rulings. The American Legion is proud to support this legislation, and applauds Senator Moran, Chairman Bost, Senator Manchin and Senator Rubio’s diligence in ensuring that veterans are served by quality VA employees.”

"The VFW supports the Restore VA Accountability Act to improve VA's ability to hold employees to the high standards our veterans deserve,” said Pat Murray, Legislative Director, The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW). “We appreciate the efforts by our supporters in Congress to provide the Secretary the authorities needed to ensure accountability remains paramount at VA."

“In the military, we are entrusted with great responsibilities and held to account to fulfill our mission,” said Jim Lorraine, President & CEO, America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP). “The VA should be the same way. If employees and managers at the VA, who are entrusted with caring for our veterans, fail to do so – they must be held accountable. For far too long, a small number of individuals have tarnished the workforce of the VA. It has hurt their reputation, their trustworthiness, and their morale. Veterans across the nation are thankful for Senator Moran, Senator Manchin, Senator Rubio and Chairman Bost for introducing this legislation to make it easier for the VA to remove these bad actors, and successfully manage their workforce.”

“Our freedom has been won on the backs of our veterans. We owe them a VA system that is accountable and effective,” said Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson (Ret.), President, National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS). “We must right wrongs and dismiss bad actors when they are identified. This bill is a positive step in restoring VA accountability and improving services. We are grateful to Ranking Member Moran, Chairman Bost, Senator Manchin and Senator Rubio for their commitment to our nation’s veterans and thank them for these efforts.”

“Under the Biden administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs has failed our nation’s heroes by not following the VA MISSION Act law,” said Russ Duerstine, Executive Director, Concerned Veterans of America. “This VA has acted as a barrier to veterans trying to access timely and quality care. While VA Secretary McDonough has no plan to fix the broken VA health care system, Senator Moran, Chairman Bost, Senator Manchin and Senator Rubio have proposed measures to restore true VA accountability. The Restore VA Accountability Act of 2023 would be a crucial step in the right direction to ensure VA is held responsible to the veterans it promised to serve. On behalf every veteran who deserves the care they’ve earned, CVA urges Congress to act swiftly and support this accountability legislation; it is a matter of saving veterans’ lives.”

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