Senior leaders at the Veterans Affairs Department say the bill that was supposed to help them hold agency senior executives more accountable isn't working. Agency leaders are considering changes to the VA Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act).
Some members of Congress are taking aim at the Merit Systems Protection Board, after it released its third decision in nearly a month to reverse punishments for senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department. MSPB is standing by its decisions, arguing that it must comply with the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald and Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson are working with Congress on a proposal that would strip senior agency executives of their rights to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board when they face disciplinary action. But the proposal faces growing criticism from the Senior Executives Association and others.
The Veterans Affairs Department is asking for a 5 percent boost in across-the-board funding next fiscal year. But Congress is questioning whether new VA programs are doing enough to solve an array of tough problems at the department.
Lawmakers cringed at the price expansion and lack of tangible goals associated with the Veterans Benefits Management System.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee came down hard on the steps VA has taken so far to hold its employees accountable for misconduct. Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the department is putting employees on detail rather than paid administrative leave, while the VA finishes a disciplinary investigation.
Recent bills introduced by Republican lawmakers aim to address what they believe are long-term, systemic issues at the senior executive level, but some worry the legislation is an overreach.
Given the VA's past performance, the House Veterans Affairs Committee said it's worried about the implementation, timeline and budget for the new Veterans Choice Program. The VA said it will tap into the expertise of private medical providers to help meet the growing demand for veterans health care.
The nominee for the Office of Inspector General for Veterans Affairs is set to appear Nov. 17 before a Senate committee to answer questions and talk about the oversight role.
A group of lawmakers are backing legislation to make it easier for veterans to get approved for business contracts under the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA is also in the midst of taking public comment on proposed changes to its verification guidelines.
The measure would preserve VA employees' rights to appeal disciplinary decisions, while shortening the appeals process. VA leaders says they do not need another law, while the White House has threatened to veto the bill out of concern for employees' due process rights.
Five Department of Veterans Affairs employees were in the hot seat this week as they answered questions on an alleged scandal involving senior officials using an agency program for their personal and financial benefit.
The director of the Veterans Benefits Administration, Allison Hickey, is resigning, after four years as undersecretary with the department.
Just when Congress is considering tougher penalties for Veterans Affairs employees engaged in misconduct, the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association have asked lawmakers to investigate a "hit list" created by the American Federation of Government Employees, VA's largest labor union.