Alexander Votes to Give Dept. of Veterans Affairs More Authority to Make Employees Accountable

Posted on June 6, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 6, 2017 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today voted for bipartisan legislation that would help hold employees at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable by giving the VA Secretary more authority to fire or demote employees for misconduct and poor job performance and protecting employees who report poor conditions at VA facilities.

“We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude that we cannot repay and must ensure they have access to good health care and benefits. That won’t happen if the VA doesn’t have the authority to hold employees accountable for their misconduct and poor job performance. This bill will help hold the people in charge accountable for their failures.”

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 gives the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs more authority to fire, demote or suspend senior VA officials for misconduct and poor performance, and requires the Secretary to implement whistleblower protection training and update the program every two years. The legislation also establishes by law a position of Assistant Secretary for Accountability and Whistleblower Protection , who will be responsible for advising the Secretary on accountability and whistleblower protection, receiving and referring whistleblower reporters and recording and tracking the results of recommendations made by the VA medical inspector and Office of Inspector General. 

Today, the Senate passed the legislation by voice vote. The legislation must now be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 2014, Alexander voted for the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 that gave veterans the choice to use private doctors or facilities as alternatives to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities, if the veteran resides more than 40 miles from VA hospitals and clinics or if the VA cannot schedule an appointment for an eligible veteran within a reasonable period of time. That legislation also allowed the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to immediately fire or demote Senior Executive Service employees for poor job performance. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 would expand on these powers by allowing the Secretary to withhold bonus payments and retirement benefits for employees convicted of felonies while working at the VA.