VA Accountability Act of 2015

Floor Speech

Date: July 29, 2015
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Veterans


Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Chairman, today I rise in support of H.R. 1994, legislation to allow the VA Secretary to fire employees because of poor performance or misconduct. I want to thank Chairman Miller for his strong leadership on this bill.

The VA Committee has been relentless in our pursuit of answers and accountability for our veterans since the
wait time scandal first surfaced. And, yet, the VA has only held three individuals responsible for these unacceptable failings.

I am the father of a veteran, and I served our returning heroes as a doctor at the Iron Mountain VA hospital for 20 years. I know exactly the quality of our veterans, and they deserve so much better.

In northern Michigan, we all know that, if you don't do your job, you get fired. It is that simple.

The VA needs to remember that it is not there to serve the VA, it is there to serve our veterans. Until we refocus the VA on this fundamental and sacred mission, we will continue to have the issues of mismanagement and incompetence that have plagued the Department.

This bill takes an important step in that direction. I am pleased to support it. I urge my colleagues to do the same.


Mr. BENISHEK. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

We have a real opportunity here to inject accountability into the VA's culture of mismanagement. The Benishek-Sinema amendment would help ensure that, when a VA inspector general identifies a problem and offers recommendations to fix it, the changes are made, and the job gets done.

Today, the IG regularly issues reports on problems at the Department, and most of the time, the VA agrees with many of the recommendations and promises to change. The problem is no manager is actually named as being responsible for making those changes. When no one is in charge, nothing gets done, and there is no one to hold responsible. This amendment makes key changes that will give the IG's reports teeth, that will bring to the VA the solutions our veterans deserve.

It increases transparency, and it allows the public to see the IG's report related to alleged employee misconduct. It requires the release of any modifications that the VA has asked the IG to make.

It also requires the IG to identify specific managers who are responsible for fixing the problems identified in the reports. Their names will not be released, but this will allow Congress and the VA to know who is responsible for fixing the problem. Those individuals will not be able to receive a bonus or any performance award until the IG certifies that the problem is resolved.

Finally, it reduces the burden on a supervisor when it is necessary to fire a bad employee. A supervisor cannot effectively manage if his hands are tied.

This amendment has a history of bipartisan support, passing as a stand-alone bill by voice vote in the last Congress. It has also garnered the support of veterans' service organizations, including the American Legion, the VFW, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

I thank my colleague and friend, Congresswoman Sinema, for her leadership and for joining me on the issue. I am grateful for Chairman Miller's support and for that of the entire Veterans' Affairs Committee. Chairman Miller has been an incredible voice and advocate for our veterans.

I reserve the balance of my time.