On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., bill to reform the federal Department of Veterans Affairs passed the U.S. Senate on a voice vote.
Last month, Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to bring out the “Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act" which would “reform the VA by allowing the secretary to dismiss bad employees, and ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.”
Under the proposal, the VA secretary would have more power to remove or demote under performing and incompetent employees while giving whistleblowers more protection, including creating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in the VA. The bill would also ensure more accountability in the VA medical system, giving the VA secretary the ability to “directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) if they have demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration, or health care fiscal management."
Rubio weighed in after the vote on Tuesday.
“You can imagine I’m incredibly pleased that my Senate colleagues today passed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act,” Rubio said. “It’s bipartisan and what it basically does is it’s now going to give the VA secretary the power to fire and dismiss bad employees and also to protect whistleblowers who come forward. So it’s been great bipartisan work with Senator Jon Tester and of course Senator Johnny Isakson, with the secretary, and with so many VA organizations across the country who support this and understand that this is a way to bring accountability to the VA. We’ve been working hard on this for years. Today is a great day. I can’t wait to get it to the president’s desk.”
Rubio reeled in more than 35 co-sponsors for his proposal. Other Senate co-sponsors include U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
The bill has won the support of the Trump administration. VA Sec. David Shulkin said last month that he supported the proposal. The bill now heads to the U.S. House.
Reforming the VA is not a new subject for Rubio who reintroduced his “VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act” at the start of the year. Back in July, Rubio teamed up with then U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who was serving as the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, to bring out the bill last summer. That bill adds more “protections for whistleblowers,” would “increase flexibility to remove VA employees for poor performance or misconduct” and “reform the department’s disability benefits appeals process.” The proposal also closes loopholes from the “VA Accountability Act” from Miller and Rubio which passed the House in 2015 but stalled in the Senate.
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