Tipton Votes to Hold VA Employees Accountable for Mistreatment of Colorado’s Heroes
Congressman Scott Tipton (CO-03) on Wednesday voted to pass the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5620), a bill that will provide more protections for whistleblowers within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), cut through the bureaucracy that has led to a pervasive lack of accountability across the Department, and make the VA’s disability benefits appeals process more efficient.
“Our investigations into the Department of Veterans Affairs following the 2014 waitlist scandal have shown that there is a complete lack of accountability in the Department, and internal bureaucracy is protecting VA bureaucrats who have mistreated our veterans in Colorado and across the entire country,” Tipton said. “We have to fix this problem before we can be confident that the VA system is providing the best possible care for our nation’s heroes.”
H.R. 5620 reduces the firing and demotion appeals processes for rank-and-file VA employees from over a year on average to no more than 77 days. The bill also suspends pay, bonuses, and other benefits for the employee while the appeal is pending.
The bill would also prevent VA managers from receiving bonuses if they do not treat whistleblower complaints seriously, or if they retaliate against whistleblower employees. In addition, H.R. 5620 would reform the VA’s appeals process for disability benefits by giving veterans the option of waiving a hearing or having their appeals decision handled by their regional office.
“The fact that it took the VA over a year to even begin the removal procedures for an employee who took a veteran who was an inpatient at a VA substance abuse clinic off-campus to purchase illegal drugs, or that it took two years to remove three of the primary people involved with manipulating patient wait times in Phoenix is incomprehensible,” Tipton added. “Like much of the federal government, the VA is suffering not only from a lack of accountability, but also a lack of common sense. H.R. 5620 is another step toward achieving a more accountable and more efficient VA.”
H.R. 5620 passed the House by a vote of 310-116. The Senate companion bill to H.R. 5620, S. 3170, has not yet been considered.