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Washington – The U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs today unanimously passed the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015 (S.290) legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to make certain the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) holds corrupt VA executives accountable for their actions. The legislation would reduce the pensions of executives convicted of a felony, limit the amount of paid administrative leave for VA senior executive service (SES) employees to only 14 days, and reform the department’s management training program and performance appraisal system for senior executives. The bill represents a bipartisan agreement with Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on VA accountability measures and is also cosponsored by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). The House companion to S. 290 was introduced by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller.

“In the wake of unthinkable wrongdoing, in which 110 VA medical facilities across the country maintained secret lists to cover up the long waits times of veterans needing care, the VA has failed to demonstrate a willingness to eliminate corruption by holding individuals responsible for their fraudulent behavior,” Sen. Moran, member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said. “The television cameras may have turned their focus elsewhere, but we will not. Our legislation will help make certain VA senior executives who violate the sacred trust of our nation’s veterans will not be rewarded with unjustly guaranteed benefits or linger on administrative leave at taxpayer expense. Our veterans deserve the best our nation has to offer. We cannot allow a system that rewards mediocrity and failure to remain intact.”

Although the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act (Choice Act), contained civil service reforms that gave the VA Secretary the authority to fire senior executives based on misconduct or incompetence, it remains unclear how many – if any – VA senior executives have been removed for wait-time manipulation. At the Choice Act’s signing in August 2014, President Obama said, “If you engaged in an unethical practice, if you cover up a problem, you should be fired.” Instead, a number of corrupt VA employees have retired with full benefits, while others have been placed on paid administrative leave for months on end.

Twice this year, the Washington Post has awarded VA Secretary Robert McDonald “Four Pinocchios” for stretching the truth when it comes to accountability within the VA by “wildly inflating” the number of firings and disciplinary actions taken by the agency for wait-time manipulation during his tenure. As a mandate of the Choice Act, the recently released Independent Assessment of the Health Care Delivery Systems and Management Processes of the Department of Veterans Affairs, states that the “VHA is in the midst of a leadership crisis,” and points to the corrupt culture within the VA as a significant factor.

Click below to read a summary of the provisions of S.290. 

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