VA Secretary Shulkin applauds progress on VA Accountability bill

The VA Accountability First Act would give the agency new powers to fire bad employees.

US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) HQ in Washington, D.C. (2010 photo via Flickr, CC 2.0 license)

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2017 – In a statement concerning the VA Accountability First Act, recently passed by the House and now under consideration by the Senate, Veterans Administration (VA) Secretary David Shulkin noted that the incident involving a Memphis VA employee brought back to work recently after a sixty-day stint in jail had not escaped his notice.

Said Shulkin, “I’m pleased to see the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee moving forward tomorrow on our much-needed accountability bill, and hope the senators pass it promptly without delay.” But, he observed

“Another example from this month underscores the need for accountability at VA: An employee who was convicted no fewer than three times for driving under the influence of alcohol, and who just served a 60-day jail sentence, is now returning to work at a VA facility.

“No other hospital system or business would have to put up with this, and the Senate bill is a solid first step on accountability. More to come.”

The VA employee Secretary Shulkin was referring to is Brittney Lowe, of the Memphis VA.

As CDN exclusively reported in an earlier breaking story, Lowe spent sixty-days in prison starting in March, but was allowed to return to work earlier this month. A human resources employee told this reporter that Lowe is not the only one at the hospital who kept her job after serving a term in jail.

The VA Accountability First Act would give the agency new powers to fire bad employees. But debate continues as to whether or not the new law will indeed make it easier to dismiss unreliable or underperforming employees.

For example, as an article from Federal News Radio entitled, “How different is the new VA accountability bill from other attempts? Depends who you ask,” observes

“Some lawmakers think they have a solution now to a longstanding and often heated debate over employee accountability at the Veterans Affairs Department.

“They say the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, which House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) introduced earlier this week, is a fresh approach that resolves past concerns with previous legislation — and serves as a tool that would make it easier for the VA secretary to fire or discipline employees.

“But others see the legislation as an attempt to target specific past events  and frustrations that Congress had with the department and the Merit Systems Protection Board.”

Lawmakers from the House and Senate reached a deal on the bill earlier this month and it is ultimately expected to become law, according to an AP report, which notes

“Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a long-stalled bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.

“The deal announced Thursday could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been in limbo since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists to cover up delays.”

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