Dr. Bucshon Supports VA Accountability Measure

May 21, 2014 Issues: Veterans

Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D.  released the following statement regarding passage of H.R. 4031, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act of 2014, a bill to hold senior employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable for negligent behavior like “secret” waiting lists and intentional backlog. 

“The VA employs many dedicated Americans who every day serve their country and care for the well-being of our veterans.  I have seen this first hand. During my residency, I worked at a VA Hospital alongside a staff dedicated to caring for our veterans to the best of their ability.  However, as we have seen recently, there are bad actors and processes that are intentionally negligent and malicious to the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms. 

“Unfortunately, the current system is riddled with bureaucracies that serve as an impediment to remove or transfer VA senior executives. Many of these individuals are not being held accountable for their actions. And we’ve seen a lack of leadership from President Obama on the issue. This is unacceptable and our veterans deserve better. 

“Today, we passed a common-sense accountability measure that the VA lacks.  It’s simple, if a senior employee’s performance is negligent and warrants removal, the Secretary of the Department will have the authority to remove the staff member.  In light of the President’s speech today, I sincerely hope he urges our Senate colleagues to pass this bill to protect our veterans immediately.” 

Summary of H.R. 4031: 

H.R. 4031 gives the Secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to remove an employee of the Senior Executive Service if the Secretary determines that the employee’s performance warrants removal.  The Secretary can remove the individual from federal service entirely, or transfer him to a General Schedule position within the civil service system. Within thirty days of removing the individual, the Secretary must notify the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the removal and the reason for it.  H.R. 4031 provides that the employee’s removal shall be done in the same manner as the removal of a professional staff member of a Member of Congress.

BACKGROUND

Recent media reports have highlighted severe mismanagement and a lack of accountability across the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Reports of preventable veteran deaths, “secret” waiting lists intended to conceal the lengthy wait times for patients, and an increased claims backlog have corresponded with bonuses and positive performance reviews for VA management.

Congress established the Senior Executive Service (SES) in 1978 to “provide a government-wide, mobile corps of managers within federal agencies.  The SES, comprising mostly career appointees who are chosen through a merit staffing process, is the link between the politically appointed heads of agencies and the career civil servants within those agencies.  The creators of the SES envisioned it as a cadre of high-level managers in the government who would provide leadership for agencies across administrations and ensure productivity and efficiency within the government.”[1]  Currently, a performance-based removal of an SES employee is a cumbersome, multi-step process. [2]  H.R. 4031 authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to bypass the existing process and remove SES managers whose performance warrants it.  The bill allows such employees to be removed in the same manner as a professional staff member of a Member of Congress.