Our veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice to fight for our country, and they deserve the best health care possible after they leave our armed services. Over the last several years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has struggled with accountability issues, and has not provided the care America’s heroes deserve. Most of the VA’s employees are honest and hardworking individuals, but it is unfair to good employees that those guilty of misconduct are not held accountable.
This week, the House voted on legislation aimed to improve the VA’s employee accountability system. Under the agencies' arcane rules, it’s incredibly difficult to remove a poorly performing VA employee. These rules have allowed a nurse that participated in a veteran’s surgery while intoxicated and an employee that engaged in armed robbery to stay on the VA’s payroll for far too long. In fact, after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges, Elizabeth Rivera was reinstated and awarded back pay.
The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 provides the Department of Veterans Affairs increased flexibility to remove, demote or suspend any VA employee for performance and misconduct. This legislation also allows the VA Secretary to recoup bonuses or relocation expenses from an employee who engaged in misconduct prior to receiving the funds.
The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to retain good employees as well, which is why the House passed H.R. 1367 to improve the VA Secretary’s authority to hire and retain high-quality health care providers. A 2016 Best Place to Work survey ranked the Department of Veterans Affairs second to last for large agencies, and second to last in effective leadership. It is clear that the VA needs a serious overhaul to provide quality care for our veterans.
The VA’s current hiring process is overly bureaucratic and very lengthy. This legislation recognizes that the VA’s future depends on its ability to effectively recruit highly qualified physicians to treat our men and women after they serve. The bill establishes new staffing and recruitment programs to help the VA find first-class employees and retain them long-term.
We owe our veterans the best health care, and these bills help repair the VA to better provide for our heroes.
It is an honor and privilege to represent you and Texas in the United States House.