Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Miller The VA Needs Accountability

Miller Announces Legislation to Help Bring Much-Needed Accountability to VA



WASHINGTON, DC - Today, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman
Jeff Miller will introduce the VA Management Accountability Act of
2014, legislation that would give VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and
future VA secretaries complete authority to fire or demote VA Senior
Executive Service or equivalent employees based on performance.
Current law ostensibly allows SES workers, a group representing the
bulk of VA's senior leaders, to be disciplined and fired, but there
are considerable amounts of red-tape involved and the process can drag
on for long periods of time. Chairman Miller's bill gets rid of this
red tape in an effort to give the VA secretary authorities similar to
those members of Congress have to fire employees from their staffs. In
Fiscal Year 2012, there were 448 career SES employees working at VA.



The bill was developed in response to reams of evidence indicating a
widespread lack of accountability in the wake of the department's
stubborn disability benefits backlog and a mounting toll of at least
31 recent preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the
country. More than a dozen instances of this trend are documented on
the VA Accountability Watch portion of the HVAC website. In each
instance, VA SES executives who presided over mismanagement or
negligence were more likely to receive a bonus or glowing performance
review than any sort of punishment.



Despite the fact that multiple VA Inspector General reports have
linked many VA patient care problems to widespread mismanagement and
GAO findings that VA bonus pay has no clear link to performance, VA
officials have consistently defended their celebration of executives
who presided over poor performance.



Because of VA's failure to address these problems, Chairman Miller
wrote to President Obama in May 2013 asking for the president's
personal involvement in addressing VA's management and accountability
issues. Months later, Chairman Miller received a response from VA
Secretary Shinseki - not President Obama - that failed to mention any
specific actions the department has taken to hold its executives
accountable for mismanagement.



Following announcement of the bill, which will be introduced today,
Chairman Miller released the below statement:



"This legislation would give VA leaders a tool to address a problem
that continues to get worse by the day. VA's widespread and systemic
lack of accountability is exacerbating all of its most pressing
problems, including the department's stubborn disability benefits
backlog and a mounting toll of at least 31 recent preventable veteran
deaths at VA medical centers across the country. While the vast
majority of VA's more than 300,000 employees and executives are
dedicated and hard-working, the department's well-documented
reluctance to ensure its leaders are held accountable for mistakes is
tarnishing the reputation of the organization and may actually be
encouraging more veteran suffering instead of preventing it. With all
the problems VA hospitals and regional offices have recently had and
new issues continually arising, we need to give the VA secretary the
authority he needs to fix things. That's what my bill would do. -
Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs



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Sean Eagan

Life Member VFW NY Post 53
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
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