VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 13, 2016
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Veterans


Mr. HUELSKAMP. Mr. Chairman, I thank the chairman, and appreciate his strong, effective leadership in the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

At a committee hearing last year, the VA publicly admitted to me it was too difficult to fire bad employees. The situation is so dire that dozens of blatantly negligent employees and convicted criminals continue to work at the VA with zero consequences for their behavior.

I was a quick cosponsor of this bill when introduced by the chairman because it provides necessary solutions to a problem that has persisted far too long.

This bill will expand the VA Secretary's removal authority to include all VA employees and speed up the process. It will put in place additional whistleblower protections and give the Secretary the authority and responsibility to rescind bonuses and expense payments for corrupt employees. And it reforms the current broken claims process by providing veterans more choices when it comes to appealing VA claims.

It might not be talked about much around here, but inside Washington everyone knows there is almost no accountability in the Federal civil service. In fact, a recent nonpartisan GAO study found, on average, it takes 6 months to a year, and often longer, to remove a bad bureaucrat.

In the VA, we have seen example after example of Federal employees more concerned with defending a couple of bad apples than caring for our veterans. It is not unreasonable to demand VA employees be held accountable for their performance, just like our veterans were during their military service and how millions of hardworking Americans must do in their jobs every single day.

It is my hope this bill will begin a long-overdue cultural shift within the VA. Until that happens, we will continue to see headlines about employees dealing heroin to patients, operating on patients while drunk, keeping their job despite an armed robbery charge, and giving years of paid leave to bad doctors. We can all agree: our veterans deserve better, and the VA should be held accountable for this obligation.

I urge my colleagues in the House to support passage of this very important bill.