Republicans Look to Help Obama Clean House at Veterans Affairs

Legislation introduced Tuesday would make firing a senior civil-service employee at the VA nearly as easy as firing a congressional staffer.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
Add to Briefcase
Jordain Carney
Feb. 12, 2014, 7:04 a.m.

The Vet­er­ans Af­fairs sec­ret­ary could dir­ectly fire or de­mote a seni­or ca­reer civil-ser­vice of­fi­cial un­der le­gis­la­tion pro­posed by Rep. Jeff Miller on Tues­day.

Miller, R-Fla., in­tro­duced the VA Man­age­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Act of 2014, aimed at re­du­cing the “con­sid­er­able amounts of red tape” cur­rently needed.

The le­gis­la­tion would make the pro­cess for fir­ing a high-rank­ing civil ser­vant largely the same as fir­ing con­gres­sion­al staffers — who are con­sidered at-will em­ploy­ees — tak­ing away the no­ti­fic­a­tion and ap­peals rights cur­rently offered.

Miller said he pressed for­ward with the le­gis­la­tion be­cause of what he views as a “wide­spread and sys­tem­ic lack of ac­count­ab­il­ity” at the VA, in­clud­ing “pre­vent­able” vet­er­ans deaths at VA fa­cil­it­ies and a “well-doc­u­mented re­luct­ance to en­sure its lead­ers are held ac­count­able.” Miller said his bill would give VA Sec­ret­ary Eric Shin­seki the au­thor­ity needed to fix what Miller views as a long-stand­ing lead­er­ship is­sue in the de­part­ment.

A re­cent re­port found that 82 vet­er­ans have died, are dy­ing, or have been ser­i­ously in­jured be­cause of delay in treat­ment or dia­gnos­is con­nec­ted with colono­scop­ies and en­do­scop­ies. But it’s un­clear if any­one in­volved at the VA was rep­rim­anded, de­moted, or fired for the delays.

And it’s not the first time Miller has pressed the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Miller has cri­ti­cized the VA for giv­ing bo­nuses without a clear tie to per­form­ance. And a pro­vi­sion in Miller’s vet­er­ans’ tu­ition le­gis­la­tion that passed the House earli­er this month would ban bo­nuses for high-rank­ing VA civil ser­vants through fisc­al year 2018.

There is one stip­u­la­tion though: With­in 30 days of re­mov­ing an of­fi­cial the sec­ret­ary would have to no­ti­fy mem­bers of the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs com­mit­tees of the re­mov­al and the reas­on­ing be­hind it.

“This le­gis­la­tion would give VA lead­ers a tool to ad­dress a prob­lem that con­tin­ues to get worse by the day. VA’s wide­spread and sys­tem­ic lack of ac­count­ab­il­ity is ex­acer­bat­ing all of its most press­ing prob­lems, in­clud­ing the de­part­ment’s stub­born dis­ab­il­ity-be­ne­fits back­log and a mount­ing toll of at least 31 re­cent pre­vent­able vet­er­an deaths at VA med­ic­al cen­ters across the coun­try,” Miller said in a state­ment.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio in­tro­duced sim­il­ar le­gis­la­tion in the Sen­ate on Tues­day.

The vet­er­ans le­gis­la­tion isn’t a com­plete sur­prise. Miller said last month be­fore Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress that if “Obama and VA lead­ers re­fuse to in­still a cul­ture of ac­count­ab­il­ity and trans­par­ency at VA, Con­gress will be forced to take le­gis­lat­ive ac­tion.”

What We're Following See More »
WANTS ANSWERS ON CLINTON EMAIL PROBE
Senate Judiciary Sends Questions to Loretta Lynch
23 hours ago
THE LATEST
ARE “OPEN TO NEGOTIATION”
Sens. Paul, Cruz, Johnson and Lee Oppose Senate Health Care Bill
1 days ago
THE LATEST

The four Senators released a joint statement, saying in part, "There are provisions in this draft that repreesnt an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs."

Source:
TRUMP SUGGESTED THERE WERE TAPES
No Comey Tapes
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Source:
DEVELOPING
Senate Healthcare Bill In Trouble?
2 days ago
BREAKING
BETTER CARE RECONCILIATION ACT
Senate Republicans Unveil Healthcare Bill
2 days ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login