NEW YORK, June 23, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- United Spinal Association's VetsFirst program praises the passage of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that was signed into law today by President Trump.
VetsFirst, which advised Congress on significant portions of the law, was joined at the White House along with allied veterans service organizations (VSOs), Members of Congress and veterans from around the country for the signing.
The new bipartisan bill is a significant reform that will aid the VA leadership to maintain a healthy workforce by removing bad employees more efficiently, protect whistle blowers and fulfill its mission more effectively.
"VetsFirst had prioritized accountability and workforce reform at the VA as its #1 priority in 2017 and we are proud to have been part of getting the job done," said Iraq War Veteran Christopher Neiweem, Director of VetsFirst, a program of United Spinal Association.
"No longer will a VA leader be allowed to make decisions that run contrary to VA's values--or worse--put veterans lives in danger and be retained for ridiculously long periods of times, while the veteran community is put on hold trying to secure a justified outcome for situations that clearly involve wrong doing," added Neiweem.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 would:
- Create a new streamlined and efficient process to remove, demote or suspend (for longer than 14 days) any VA employee for poor performance or misconduct with a concrete shortened timeline, while still protecting employees' due process rights, and would provide them with the right to appeal the action.
- Provide expanded protections for whistleblowers and would specifically bar VA from using this removal authority if the employee has an open whistleblower complaint/case with the Office of Special Counsel.
- Provide the Secretary with the authority to reduce an employee's federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; recoup a bonus provided to an employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus; and allow the Secretary to recoup any relocation expenses that were authorized for a VA employee only through the employee's ill-gotten means, such as fraud waste or malfeasance.
- Authorize the Secretary to directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) if they have a demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration or health care fiscal management. This will make it easier to fill these critical positions quickly.
VetsFirst actively promoted for the passage of the bill over the past three years via its lobbying efforts, grassroots and media engagement.
The new law is supported by:
United Spinal's VetsFirst
The American Legion
Concerned Veterans for America
Disabled American Veterans
Fleet Reserve Association
Got Your 6
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Military Order of the Purple Heart
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Student Veterans of America
United States Army Warrant Officers Association
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Vietnam Veterans of America
VetsFirst advocates for laws and regulations that are beneficial to veterans and their families. Our staff works to secure the benefits that our veterans and their family members need and have earned. We advocate nationally for all generations of veterans, including individuals living with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
About United Spinal Association
United Spinal is a national 501(c) (3) nonprofit membership organization formed in 1946 by paralyzed veterans and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, ALS and post-polio. It played a significant role in writing the Americans with Disabilities Act, and made important contributions to the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. Membership is free and is open to all individuals with SCI/D. United Spinal was instrumental in getting New York City to create sidewalk curb ramps and accessible public transportation that has been used as a model for many United States cities.
Spindell Media Relations, LLC
United Spinal Association
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SOURCE United Spinal Association