Costa Supports Legislation to Improve VA Accountability
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, by a vote of 368 to 55 on Tuesday. The bill, which passed in the U.S. Senate by a voice vote earlier this month, uses two different approaches to strengthen the ability of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hold department employees accountable when their misconduct, negligence, or incompetence jeopardizes the well-being of veterans. The first general approach focuses on methods for disciplining VA employees for misconduct or failure to perform their job, and the second on protecting employees from retaliation if they report the misconduct of other employees.
S. 1094 has similar goals to the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, a bill that passed in the House on March 16th but was never considered by the Senate. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, as passed by both the House and Senate, directly addresses some of the concerns regarding how the House’s bill modifies protections for the VA’s labor force.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 is supported by numerous veterans and military organizations, including the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, and the Reserve Officers Association. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin also supports the legislation, stating, “It’s common sense – we need to hold our employees accountable for their actions if they violate the public trust, and at the same time protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This legislation will help us do just that.”
Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) voted in favor of the bill and said shortly after it passed in the House of Representatives, “Our servicemen, servicewomen, and their families sacrifice so much for our nation. They deserve the best we can provide, which means we must make dramatic improvements to veterans programs, VA facilities, and the process veterans and their families go through to gain access to their benefits. While this may not be the bill that I would have drafted, addressing how the Department of Veterans Affairs is run is an important part of ensuring that our veterans and their families get what they need and what they have earned. Although more must be done for our veterans and their families, I am pleased to see this bill pass through both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support. Supporting our veterans, active servicemen and servicewomen, and military families is one of our highest duties, both in Congress and throughout our nation.”
The bill passed in identical form in both congressional chambers and is being sent to the President to sign.