June 23, 2017
by Lauren Rosenblatt
President Trump signed into law Friday a bill that will ease restrictions on the discipline and termination of employees from the troubled veterans affairs department.
The Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 is designed to speed up the process to discipline an employee for misconduct and put more decision-making power in the hands of Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.
The act is in response to the 2014 VA scandals involving long wait times for medical care and attempts by VA employees to cover up the delays.
Trump, who promised to improve healthcare for veterans during his campaign, said the bill was one of the largest reforms to the VA in its history and is “essential to making sure our veterans are treated with respect.”
The bill passed the House with bipartisan support June 13 and the Senate on June 6. Although the bill is widely supported by veterans advocacy groups, civil servant unions condemn the legislation as a way to get around long-standing protections for government employees and whistle-blowers.
The reform, Shulkin said, will not be used as a “tool for mass firings,” but rather a way to raise morale throughout the department and attract new employees. “Slow, steady, incremental change isn’t what this organization needs,” Shulkin said. “Right now, I believe this is progress.”
(Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor.)