Hoeven-Cosponsored Bill to Improve Accountability at the VA Signed into Law

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after legislation he cosponsored to improve and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was signed into law by the president. The bill provides the VA Secretary with the necessary tools to address poor performance and misconduct by VA employees and also establishes safeguards to protect whistleblowers.

“The vast majority of VA employees are dedicated to serving veterans, and we are grateful for the good work of the Fargo VA staff,” Hoeven said. “However, when an employee commits misconduct, the VA should have the ability to address this in a fair but timely manner. Our veterans have earned the highest level of care possible, and by improving accountability at the VA, this bipartisan legislation will help fulfill our promises to those who have served and defended our nation.”

Specifically, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act:

·        Authorizes the Secretary of VA to reprimand, suspend, demote or remove VA employees at any level

·        Prohibits bonuses for employees who have been found guilty of wrongdoing and prohibits relocation expenses to employees who abuse the system

·        Establishes in law the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA, a post created earlier this year by executive order

·        Shortens the appeal and review process

·        Lowers the burden of proof necessary for meaningful disciplinary action

·        Protects whistleblowers who have filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel

The legislation is supported by the North Dakota VA Commissioner, American Legion, American Veterans (AMVETS), Concerned Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

This legislation is part of Hoeven’s ongoing efforts to provide better care for the nation’s veterans. The senator has been working to ensure veterans can access timely, quality health care options closer to home. Hoeven has secured a commitment from VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin to work with him on his Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, which would expand veterans’ access to long-term care services. Hoeven is also working to build on the success of the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA, which has decreased the wait time from an initial call to scheduling an appointment under the Veterans Choice Program from 24 days a year ago to five or six days currently.