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.
An extension and then redesign of the Veterans Choice Program, along with new employee accountability legislation, are top priorities for new Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. He said he's working with Congress on new legislation to support those initiatives.
Last year, after a long gap, the Veterans Affairs Department got a permanent inspector general. Federal Drive with Tom Temin interviews the VA's new IG, Michael Missal, about the Veterans Choice Act and how the department responded when Congress updated it.
David Shulkin, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, earned high praise from the Senate committee during his nomination hearing. Changing the department's current Veterans Choice Program and crafting new accountability and disciplinary procedures for VA employees were common topics.
In today's Top Federal Headlines, the White House releases this year's Federal Agency Strategic Sustainability Plans, providing a snapshot of the progress agencies have made becoming more environmentally friendly.
Roughly half of a congressionally appointed commission to reform the Veterans Affairs Department suggested an expansion of community care for veterans and a systematic closure of some VA medical facilities. The "strawman document" emerged as the VA pilots a few new programs to help veterans gain more control over their health care.
Congress is beginning to get a clearer picture of the Veterans Affairs Department's new Choice Program, which lets veterans access private sector community care providers if they choose. But members on the House VA Committee question the department's continued involvement in scheduling appointments for veterans.
Accountability in the Senior Executive Service will be at the center of congressional discussions on a new omnibus legislative package for the Veterans Affairs Department. Senate VA Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said he wants the VA and the committee to finish its work on the legislation by April 1.
The Senate is considering a series of new bills that would alter the Veterans Affairs Department's current Choice program, which lets veterans find a private care provider rather than a VA doctor. VA leaders and Congress both say the department's current program is not working.
One prominent attorney believes MSPB is signaling to Congress it doesn't like the curtailment of employee civil rights.
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 Veterans Affairs Department is creating a data backbone that will house veterans' addresses and correspondence in one system.
The Senate passed a piece of legislation Wednesday that will help the Veterans Affairs Department avoid a budget shortfall that could impact the care some veterans receive.
The Veterans Affairs Department has reduced wait times for tens of thousands of veterans seeking health care. Part of the progress comes from the congressionally-mandated Veterans Choice program. It requires the VA to issue choice cards to vets so they can seek medical care from private providers with VA footing the bill. VA issued the first batch of cards this month. James Tuchschmidt, acting principal deputy undersecretary for health at the VA, joined Tom Temin on the Federal Drive to discuss the rollout and the program.