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Mullin' It Over Column

Holding the VA Accountable

By Congressman Markwayne Mullin

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Washington, March 16, 2017 | comments
It’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has fallen into disrepair. A department created with the sole purpose to “care for him who shall have born the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” has faced significant challenges in fulfilling that mission for many of our veterans and their families. The men and women who have served our nation in the armed forces deserve quality, timely health care.

Ranked second to last among large agencies, second to last in effective leadership, and dead last in pay according to a 2016 Best Places to Work survey, the Department of Veterans Affairs is in serious need of overhaul. This week in Congress, the House is considering two bills to bring accountability back to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA Accountability First Act (H.R. 1259) gives the VA Secretary more flexibility to manage the department’s employees. This bill gives the VA Secretary the power to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee because of performance or misconduct. It also extends more protections to whistleblowers so that employees are more likely to speak up when they see misconduct from bad actors within the VA. Finally, H.R. 1259 gives the VA Secretary the power to take back a bonus given to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance before receiving the bonus. Making the VA more accountable is a top priority in the reform of the department and passing this bill will ensure that its employees’ conduct is held to a higher standard.

The second bill being considered this week is H.R. 1367, a bill “to improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Just as private sector businesses can interview and hire the most qualified applicants they can find, the VA should have the tools and resources to recruit highly skilled employees who rank in the top of their field. H.R. 1367 establishes staffing, recruitment, and retention programs that allow the VA to recruit and retain the best doctors and health care professionals in the field. We want to make sure that our veterans receive the best care from the best health care providers and this bill reforms the long, difficult bureaucratic process of hiring that is currently in place at the VA.

As Americans, it is our duty to take care of our nation’s heroes. Our men and women in uniform go to great lengths to protect our families and our freedoms and we owe it to our veterans and their families to take care of them. The Department of Veterans Affairs is capable of achieving its fundamental responsibility to care for those who have served in our military. It’s a matter of giving them the tools, resources, and power to set their agency straight again. These two bills are a step in the right direction for the VA, and I’m proud to support both of them on the House floor when they are voted on this week.
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