Hensarling Votes to Hold VA Officials Accountable, Reform Benefits Appeals Process
WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) voted for the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (H.R. 5620). This bill would speed up the VA disability benefits appeals process, strengthen protections for whistleblowers at the VA, and provide the Secretary of the VA increased flexibility to remove a VA employee for poor performance or misconduct.
“In order to truly fix our broken VA system, we must ultimately address the complete lack of accountability across the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Hensarling. “This bill is a concrete step toward instilling that accountability. For too long, our veterans have had to deal with dishonesty and incompetence across the VA as union bosses and some administration officials have seemingly prioritized the jobs of VA bureaucrats over the care of our veterans. That is certainly the impression that many veterans I have visited with in the 5th District of Texas have of the VA. That’s not fair to them, and it’s not fair to the hardworking and honest employees at the VA either.”
The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act also reforms and streamlines the VA’s disability benefits appeals process. “One of the issues that I constantly hear from veterans about is the length of time that they spend going through the VA appeals process. It is simply mind-boggling that veterans can literally spend years tangled up in bureaucratic red tape waiting on an outcome. I’m pleased that this bill will streamline the appeals process to shorten the time that our veterans spend waiting on a decision – all while protecting the due process rights of veterans.”
“As a Congress, and as a nation, we cannot rest until our veterans are getting the care they have earned and deserve. As President Coolidge said, ‘The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.’ We must never forget the sacrifices of our nation’s heroes nor the promises we’ve made to them. I am committed to reforming the VA system, holding VA administrators and employees accountable, and keeping our promise to our nation’s veterans.”
H.R. 5620 would make the following reforms to the VA:
- Shorten the firing/demotion/appeals process for rank-and-file VA employees from more than a year on average to no more than 77 days
- Remove the Merit Systems Protection Board from the firing/demotion/appeals process for VA senior executives
- Provide VA whistleblowers with a means to solve problems at the lowest level possible, while offering them protection from retaliation
- Give the VA secretary the authority to recoup bonuses and relocation expenses from poorly performing employees
- Give the VA secretary the authority to reduce the pensions of senior executives convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance
- Reform the department’s broken disability benefits appeals process
The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 passed in the House 310 to 116.