Trump signs Veterans Administrations reform bill into law

The Veterans Administration's struggles with backlogs surfaced in 2013 as the whole system contended with an unprecedented rise in the numbers of veterans seeking care.
By Mae Owen | Jun 27, 2017
The Veterans Administration will be subject to more accountability, and employee whistleblowers will receive stronger protections, following President Trump's signature on Friday of a new Veterans Administration-reform bill into law. The new law, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, makes it easier to fire employees and report wrongdoing within the agency to authorities.

Trump said that the bill was a response to service backlogs that led to many veterans dying while waiting for doctors' appointments at VA hospitals in recent years. He told his audience at the signing ceremony, which included dozens of lawmakers, veterans, and veterans' family members, that these fatally long wait times must never happen again.

"What happened was a national disgrace, and yet some of the employees involved remained on the payrolls," Trump said. "Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to this nation, and now we must fulfill our duty to them."

The Veterans Administration's struggles with backlogs surfaced in 2013 as the whole system contended with an unprecedented rise in the numbers of veterans seeking care. Claims peaked that year at 610,000 cases but declined to 70,000 in 2015. Claims are up again this year, with 100,000 VA claims reported as of March 2017.

The new law aims to improve efficiency by enforcing stricter discipline. It cuts the existing 30-day notice period that underperforming employees receive down to 19 days and expedites the appeals process, lowers the evidentiary standards the employer must show to justify firing an employee, and it allows the VA secretary to rescind employee bonuses and relocation expenses at its discretion. It also establishes a new internal VA grievance procedure for reporting abuses.

 

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