VA Accountability Measure Signed into Law

Isakson-Rubio-Tester legislation will change culture at VA, ensure department is accountable to veterans it serves

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today applauded the president’s signing of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law.

The bipartisan legislation, introduced by Isakson along with Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., ranking member of the committee, seeks to improve accountability at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and represents the first major reform to civil service at the VA since Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act in 2014.

“This is yet another positive step forward for our veterans,” said Isakson. “I want to thank my colleagues in Congress, VA Secretary Shulkin and President Trump for their support of this legislation and dedication to increasing accountability at the VA. We owe our veterans the best possible care and support that they have earned. By helping to instill a culture of accountability at the VA, we can see to it that we deliver on that promise.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act was introduced on May 11, and it passed the Senate VA committee by voice vote on May 24.

The Senate passed the bill without dissent on June 6, and the U.S. House of Representatives followed suit by passing the legislation by a vote of 368-55 on June 13.

Background:

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act increases the VA’s authority to remove employees at all levels of the department, shortens the removal process and ensures an individual removed from the VA is not kept on the VA’s payroll while appealing that decision. It also makes it easier for the VA to remove poor performing senior executives and replace them with qualified candidates. Additionally, any appeals by senior VA executives would no longer be brought before the Merit Systems Protection Board, but instead would be handled directly by the VA secretary under an expedited timeline.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act also establishes in law the newly created Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA, which mirrors a proposal first introduced by Isakson in his Veterans First Act last Congress.

The legislation also includes a number of other provisions to hold employees accountable, including:

  • Requires the VA to evaluate supervisors based on the protection of whistleblowers;
  • Incentivizes managers to address poor performance and misconduct among employees by requiring the VA secretary to include this as part of the annual performance plan;
  • Prohibits bonuses for employees who have been found guilty of wrongdoing; and
  • Prohibits relocation expenses to employees who abuse the system.

A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here.

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 The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.