President Trump signed into law June 23 the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which holds Department of Veterans Affairs employees to higher standards and makes it easier to fire them when those standards are not met while also protecting employees who bring to light concerns that deal with the quality of care provided to veterans.
“Today we are taking a very historic action,” the president said. “This law will finally give the VA secretary the authority to remove federal employees who fail and endanger our veterans — and to do so quickly and effectively.”
Under the new law, the VA secretary can revoke bonuses from underperforming staffers, reduce the pensions of executives who are disciplined and fire employees for misconduct.
“Accountability must be a two-way street, and today’s signing now provides VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin the authority to manage his people in a manner expected of all senior executives, public or private,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States National Commander Brian Duffy. “Weeding out the nonperformers and those whose personal conduct brings doubt and dishonor upon thousands of dedicated employees is essential to restoring the full faith of veterans in their VA.”
The law also establishes an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection and includes new protections for VA whistleblowers. In 2014, whistleblowers exposed delays in treatment throughout the Veterans Health Administration system.
“Three years ago, a nationwide crisis in access to care and confidence engulfed the entire VA,” Duffy said. “Today’s signing will not instantly fix an employee culture of indifference to appointed leadership that took years — if not decades — to fester, but it does send a very loud and unmistakable signal to all employees that maintaining the status quo no longer works for those who have borne the battle. Let the healing begin.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and 39 others sponsored the legislation to ensure veterans have access to the care, services and benefits they have earned.
“These changes are crucial to ensure that there’s accountability at the VA so that it can deliver for our veterans,” Rubio told NPR.
Watch the signing ceremony event below.