U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-CO6., and Republican colleagues on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, have introduced HR 1259, the Veteran’s Affairs Accountability First Act of 2017. The bill would provide the secretary of veteran affairs increased discrepancy to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee, including senior executive service employees, due to performance or misconduct.
“Time and time again, I have called to reform the VA, an organization that has been mired in a culture of corruption and bureaucratic incompetence,” Coffman said in a news release. “The VA has consistently failed to meet our nation’s obligations to the men and women who have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedoms.”
The bill would also provide improved protections for whistleblowers; allow the secretary to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance before receiving the bonus; and allow the secretary to recoup any relocation expenses that were authorized for a VA employee only through the employee’s “ill-gotten means,” such as fraud waste or malfeasance.
A news release from the House Committee on Veterans Affairs said a recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, on average, it takes six months to a year to remove a permanent civil servant in the federal government, though it often takes longer. Last year, former VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified at a hearing that it was too hard to fire bad VA employees.
The committee release added that in the past several years, arcane civil service rules have hampered the department’s ability to dismiss an employee who took part in an armed robbery, discipline a VA nurse who participated in a veteran’s surgery while intoxicated and hold employees accountable for continued failures to manage several major construction projects, including the new hospital in Aurora, which is in Coffman’s district, that is now several years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget.
Other cosponsors of HR 1259, which was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, are U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. and VA committee chairman, Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, Jim Banks, R-Indiana, Jack Bergman, R-Mich., Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Mike Bost, R-Ill., Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, R-Alaska, and Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio.