(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) teamed up with Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to introduce the bipartisan Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Development (LEAD) Act of 2023 to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to identify wrongdoing and hold leadership and employees accountable.
The Senators’ comprehensive legislation would reform VA’s oversight and accountability processes and tools to improve the Department’s ability to take action against VA leaders and employees who have engaged in misconduct. It would also require Department leaders at all levels to take more proactive oversight efforts to root out bad actors and empower rank-and-file employees to hold leadership accountable. These reforms would help prevent wrongdoing and leadership failures—increasing patient safety and the quality of services, care, and benefits at VA facilities across the country.
“Bad actors at VA will not be tolerated—period,” said Tester. “Our bipartisan bill will overhaul VA’s oversight tools to root out and prevent misconduct at the Department, ensuring we have the very best leaders and employees serving the men and women who risked their lives for this country.”
“Instilling accountability at the VA is key to ensuring veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve and attracting the best and brightest to VA’s workforce,” said Moran. “Earlier this year, I introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act. The LEAD Act complements that legislation and would provide the VA with additional tools to improve oversight, outcomes and the delivery of services to veterans and their families. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass both bills in the Senate. When bad actors and poor performing employees are appropriately held accountable and the right oversight mechanisms are in place, veterans and hardworking VA employees – who make up the vast majority of the workforce – will all benefit.”
“Our nation’s veterans have made incredible sacrifices so that we can be free,” said Rounds. “We have a responsibility to provide them with health care and other benefits after their service is complete, and it is crucial that VA employees at all levels charged with delivering that care are held to a high standard. The LEAD Act would improve the Department’s ability to hold bad actors accountable and protect whistleblowers, while increasing patient safety at VA facilities. I am pleased to join Chairman Tester and Ranking Member Moran in introducing this bipartisan legislation to make certain that the VA has the tools it needs to conduct proper oversight and retain employees who are dedicated to providing quality care and services to our veterans.”
The LEAD Act’s provisions draw on the findings of dozens of VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports and years of Congressional hearings and oversight work documenting recurring gaps in VA’s oversight. It specifically would put into law the findings of GAO’s recent review of VA’s Office of Medical Inspector—establishing accountability mechanisms to improve oversight of VA health care.
Among its many provisions, the LEAD Act would:
- Require VA to establish a unified system with clear standards and training for proposing and processing accountability actions, including terminations, demotions, and suspensions, against VA employees who have engaged in misconduct;
- Establish one single office in the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) that would consolidate all of VHA’s oversight, patient safety, care quality, and accountability functions—cutting red tape and making clear who’s in charge of oversight in these areas;
- Create a group of traveling VA medical staff to cover long-term absences on a temporary basis amidst ongoing investigations or during planned extended leave to ensure there’s no disruption in veterans’ access to care;
- Mandate VA report to Congress on the lessons learned from implementing the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017; and
- Require local and regional VHA leaders to regularly conduct in-person oversight visits of facilities.
“Our nation’s veterans have risked their lives to protect our way of life,’ said National Commander of The American Legion Vincent James “Jim” Troiola. “Veterans deserve the best care from an accountable Department of Veterans Affairs. The American Legion proudly supports the LEAD Act, which will provide sustained accountability to ensure the VA is delivering the quality care veterans deserve.”