Members of the Senate have reached a long awaited agreement on new accountability procedures for senior executives and employees within the Veterans Affairs Department. A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act Thursday morning. It would change current disciplinary appeals rights for both SES and rank-and-file employees.
Veterans Affairs Department employees are now answering 99.8 percent of veterans' calls to the VA crisis hotline, and fewer than 1 percent of those calls are rolling over to backup centers. But the VA Inspector General and lawmakers still see some troubling challenges.
If the 114th Congress was about dissecting the Veterans Affairs Department's challenges, then the 115th Congress will act quickly to solve them, leadership on the House Veterans Affairs Committee said.
The Government Accountability Office had some hard truths for the Veterans Affairs Department, which has failed to produce more modern, interoperable IT systems after years of failed pilots and heated congressional hearings. GAO says VA should drop its plans to modernize VistA and find a commercial option instead.
Rob Snyder, the acting secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, officially exempts some health care, construction and project management professionals from the President's short-term hiring freeze. Snyder's announcement comes after repeated appeals from some lawmakers, who said the freeze could impact veterans' ability to access health care.
The Office of Management and Budget detailed a few immediate actions that agencies should take following President Donald Trump's recently announced hiring freeze.
One congressman and the Veterans Affairs Department's number two both suggested the VA doesn't need another policy or rule to help the agency turn around years of mismanagement and a "culture of fear" at some medical centers.
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.
Congress is renewing its push for more oversight of a controversial agency. Two House members introduced the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Inspector General Act of 2015. It's a bipartisan effort, sponsored by Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio). The bill would create an independent Inspector General position at the CFPB. Stivers joined Tom Temin on the Federal Drive with more on the bill.