Legislation Cosponsored by Senators Collins, King to Restore Accountability at the VA Signed into Law

The new law, which seeks to prevent a reoccurrence of the 2014 VA scandal, protects whistleblowers and provides the secretary with new tools to discipline bad actors

Washington, D.C. — Bipartisan legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) that will help reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been signed into law. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will allow the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to dismiss bad employees and ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.

“Our nation's veterans deserve access to the high-quality health care that they have earned through their service to our country. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, I was shocked and outraged by the 2014 scandal that exposed not only mismanagement, but also the widespread deception that permeated the VA, which led to unacceptable delays for veterans who needed appointments,” said Senator Collins. “By providing the Secretary with additional tools to discipline and dismiss poorly performing employees while protecting whistleblowers, this law will help restore accountability, reduce misconduct, and enhance the care that veterans receive at the VA.”

“It’s a solemn promise we make to our veterans: to serve them as they have served us,” Senator King said. “But, as we saw in 2014, American veterans too often are left without the proper care that they deserve while those at fault are not held accountable. This legislation will help change that by empowering the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to make the changes needed to improve care for our veterans who deserve nothing but the best. I am encouraged this bill became law with broad bipartisan support. The VA will be stronger and more resilient with this law in place.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act addresses many of the systemic problems that led to the 2014 VA wait time scandal by increasing the VA’s authority to remove bad employees at all levels of the department, shortening their removal process and ensuring an individual removed from the VA is not kept on the VA’s payroll while appealing that decision. It will also make 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 legislation also includes a number of other provisions to hold employees accountable, including:

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

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

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act was originally introduced on May 11th by U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Jon Tester (D-MT) and cosponsored by 35 Senators.