Plan to Overhaul VA Department Hits Opposition

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: February 14, 2014 3:55 AM
Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller

Veterans support organizations (VSO) and a group representing federal employees are divided on a bill introduced by two Florida Republicans in Congress to reform the federal Veterans Affairs Department.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, team up on Tuesday to introduce the VA Management Accountability Act of 2014.

The legislation would give VA secretaries the ability to fire or demote senior VA department officials based on performance. Rubio’s and Miller’s bill would give the VA secretary the ability to fire or demote senior executive service (SES) officials in the department. As of fiscal year 2012, there were 448 SES officials in the department.

When they introduced the bill, Rubio and Miller said the recent deaths of 31 veterans at VA facilities, which could have been prevented, and the lack of accountability VA officials faced in the aftermath prompted them to file their legislation.

But the Senior Executives Association (SEA), which represents federal employees, is pushing back against the measure.

“Not only is this bill a solution in search of a problem, it is unfair and does not further the goal that we all share to ensure the highest quality care for our nation’s veterans,” said SEA President Carol Bonosaro on Wednesday. “Further, nearly one-third of the career members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) working at the VA are themselves veterans. They share a commitment to continued public service, and it is a shame that the very committee that is looking for ways to increase the presence of veterans in the federal workforce would now enable firing those at the highest career levels without any due process whatsoever.”

The SEA argued this would give SES workers less job protection than other federal employees and would subject them to political pressure.

Rubio’s and Miller’s legislation has won the backing of AMVETS (American Veterans), Concerned Veterans for America, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The leaders of these and other VSOs went to bat for the bill on Thursday.

“The American Legion is deeply concerned with the lack of accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Dan Dellinger, the national commander of the American Legion, on Thursday. “This legislation would provide tools to the secretary of Veterans Affairs to better manage Senior Executive Service employees, and hold them accountable when they fail to perform their duties in a manner that better serves the veterans entrusted to their care.”

“Under the current, antiquated and morbidly dysfunctional civil service system, it’s nearly impossible to dismiss or do more than slap the wrists of incompetent, ineffective and wasteful Senior Executive employees,” insisted John Mitchell Jr., the national commander of AMVETS. “This situation is no doubt largely responsible for the ongoing backlog, as well as the problems of delayed benefits and inconsistent care experienced by many veterans. AMVETS believes that no matter what ideas and policies the VA secretary wants to implement, without the ability to remove deadweight executives, his hands are tied. Veterans are tired of platitudes and broken promises; the only way to break the cycle of ineptitude at VA and restore our veterans’ faith in the system is to eradicate problems at the root – the Senior Executive level.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

Comments (4)

Va Employee 1
9:40AM FEB 15TH 2014
What ever happened to providing our Veterans with free Health care for the rest of their lives. That just went down the tubes fast.
IMHO they would serve the Veteran better by giving them all a voucher and they can go where ever they want for health care and close down the VA system. It is antiquated and broke and needs to be either fixed or replaced. I think it is to far gone for fixing, so replacement seems the only feasible option. I truely feel bad for our Veterans who have given so much for our country already.
Noneya Business
11:03PM FEB 14TH 2014
The VA is nothing but a SCAM. Ask about the VA billing and how they want to generate REVENUE, that's right, from the veterans & their INSURANCE companies. All they care about is getting their BONUS...and if it's a non-VA provider (FEE BASIS) the vet sees, they don't care about paying the bills or ruining vets' credit reports even if it's PRE-authorized........
Va Employee 1
9:47PM FEB 14TH 2014
I think the legislation is good, but may not go far enough. I can remember when I started in the VA 29+ years ago a facility Director never did more than a 5 year term at a facility. This kept the possibility of good ole boys clubs to take over and circumvent the mission of our VA's. I have been witness to this action and am very disappointed in the lack of concern for this from a higher level. I think the Directors of facilities should rotate at a minimum every 5 to 7 years keeping these issues out of the relm of possibilites. The ability to stay in one place to long creates the ability for corruption which in my opinion runs to rampid in the VAsystem and is bad for the care of our Veterans
Noneya Business
11:00PM FEB 14TH 2014
Still going on..............they never get rid of the higher ups, it is always blamed on the little guy, who they fire.

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