WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) applauded President Trump signing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law today. Senator Baldwin had joined Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jon Tester (D-MT) and 35 other Senators as cosponsors of the legislation.
The bipartisan legislation will reform the VA by better protecting whistleblowers and providing the VA Secretary with stronger measures to discipline and hold bad employees accountable.
“With this legislation being signed into law, we’re showing that we can work across party lines to move VA reforms forward and make them a reality,” said Senator Baldwin. “Together, we can build a VA that protects whistleblowers, many of whom are veterans working to improve the system. We also need to make sure we are empowering the VA to hold bad actors accountable because our veterans deserve nothing less than high quality service and care.”
"We greatly appreciate Senator Baldwin making veterans' issues a priority at a time when disparities in medical care, job opportunities and budget priorities for veterans have been exposed," said Daniel J. Seehafer, State Commander of the Wisconsin American Legion.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act increases the VA’s authority to remove employees at all levels of the department, shortens the removal process and ensures an individual removed from the VA is not kept on the VA’s payroll while appealing that decision - all without sacrificing due process rights. 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 Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will also establish in law the newly created Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA.
The legislation also includes a number of other provisions to hold bad actors accountable, including:
· Requires the VA to evaluate supervisors based on the protection of whistleblowers;
· Incentivizes managers to address poor performance and misconduct among employees by requiring the VA secretary to include this as part of the annual performance plan;
· Prohibits bonuses for employees who have been found guilty of wrongdoing; and
· Prohibits relocation expenses to employees who abuse the system.
Along with Senators Baldwin, Isakson, Rubio and Tester, 35 other senators are cosponsors of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, including Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Kennedy (R-LA), Angus King (I-ME), John McCain (R-AZ), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY), David Perdue (R-GA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is widely supported by key veterans stakeholders including the VA and the American Legion Department of Wisconsin. This legislation has also won the support of several veterans advocacy groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States and key government accountability groups.