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house Bill H.R. 1259

Does the VA Need More Flexibility in Firing, Demoting or Suspending Poorly Performing Employees?

Argument in favor

The VA’s leadership needs more flexibility for dealing with employees who have performed poorly, whether it’s firing or suspending them, or recouping bonuses that they didn’t deserve.

Syhuwe's Opinion
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03/15/2017
I am a disabled veteran who uses the VA for healthcare. I have filed formal complaints against doctors, and those doctors are not punished, and continue working at the VA. As a female veteran of Asian descent, I have met several racist/sexist clerks who have assumed I was just someone's wife, "picked up" during a deployment, instead of the actual veteran, and they treated me with condescension and rudeness. The VA needs to be more scrupulous in who they hire, and be able to fire employees who deserve to be fired, instead of keeping them around.
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Bill's Opinion
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03/13/2017
I'm a life long union worker. But, I do believe that you should be responsible for your actions. If they merit termination, the union shouldn't be able to get your job back. This bill should allow the proper hearing for the fired person. But, we need to improve the VA for our vets.
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Tafinzer's Opinion
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03/17/2017
I've had two occasions in the recent past to deal with and work closely With The VA. Both circumstances put me in contact with very underperforming and I daresay incompetent iindividuals. I believe the VA needs much improvement.
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Argument opposed

The rules that constrain federal agencies from easily firing, suspending, or demoting employees are there for a reason and the VA shouldn’t be granted additional authority on those fronts.

Rob's Opinion
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03/13/2017
I'd argue against firing anyone until the VA is allowed to hire people. They need more employees, not less
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David's Opinion
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03/15/2017
Can we have some kind of assurance that VA employees will be protected from wrongful termination, especially those that speak out against the people calling the shots? Why doesn't Congress put these kinds of rules in place for themselves? This just looks like another case of blame the workers instead of the bureaucracy that makes the system inefficient.
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OWorthyFool's Opinion
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03/13/2017
We need to focus on granting the VA more resources and stronger infrastructure to handle the needs of our veterans, not focus on firing people from an already-understaffed agency. There are bigger problems with the VA that should be addressed first.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
  • The house Passed March 16th, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 237 Yea / 178 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
      Committee on Veterans' Affairs
    IntroducedFebruary 28th, 2017

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What is House Bill H.R. 1259?

This bill would give the Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs increased flexibility in terminating, demoting, or suspending any VA employee — including those in the Senior Executive Service — for poor performance or misconduct. It would also allow the secretary to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they’re convicted of a job-related felony, recoup a bonus provided to an employee who committed misconduct or poor performance before it was awarded, and recoup fraudulent or wasteful relocation expenses.

Whistleblowers couldn’t be terminated, demoted, or suspended without approval by the VA’s Special Counsel and until a final decision about their complaint has been made.

Impact

People getting VA benefits; VA employees and managers; and the VA.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1259

The CBO estimates that enacting this bill would cost $2 million over the 2017-2022 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) introduced this bill to give the VA secretary more flexibility in removing, demoting, or suspending VA employees for poor performance or misconduct:

“I’ve said time and time again that the vast majority of the employees at the VA are hardworking and have the best interests of our veterans at heart, but there are still too many bad apples within the department. Our veterans deserve better, and the VA employees who fulfill their duties deserve better.”

Several Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee expressed their opposition to this bill on the grounds that it would infringe on the VA’s union-negotiated grievance procedures and alter their collective bargaining agreement. In the bill’s committee report, they said that in practice the bill would “make it more difficult to achieve substantial accountability while exacerbating VA’s culture of whistleblower retaliation and a toxic work environment that allows that allows poorly performing managers to retaliate against frontline VA employees.”

This legislation has the support of 26 cosponsors in the House, all but one of whom is a Republican. No committee votes were held on this bill.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Veterans Health via Flickr / Creative Commons)

AKA

VA Accountability First Act of 2017

Official Title

To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes.

    I am a disabled veteran who uses the VA for healthcare. I have filed formal complaints against doctors, and those doctors are not punished, and continue working at the VA. As a female veteran of Asian descent, I have met several racist/sexist clerks who have assumed I was just someone's wife, "picked up" during a deployment, instead of the actual veteran, and they treated me with condescension and rudeness. The VA needs to be more scrupulous in who they hire, and be able to fire employees who deserve to be fired, instead of keeping them around.
    Like (199)
    Follow
    Share
    I'd argue against firing anyone until the VA is allowed to hire people. They need more employees, not less
    Like (184)
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    As with many other bills, I don't know the subtext. Is this a bill designed to enhance a political party's ability to purge whistleblowers or anti-Trump employees? Or is it truly designed to challenge incompetence?
    Like (218)
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    Share
    Can we have some kind of assurance that VA employees will be protected from wrongful termination, especially those that speak out against the people calling the shots? Why doesn't Congress put these kinds of rules in place for themselves? This just looks like another case of blame the workers instead of the bureaucracy that makes the system inefficient.
    Like (140)
    Follow
    Share
    I'm a life long union worker. But, I do believe that you should be responsible for your actions. If they merit termination, the union shouldn't be able to get your job back. This bill should allow the proper hearing for the fired person. But, we need to improve the VA for our vets.
    Like (76)
    Follow
    Share
    I've had two occasions in the recent past to deal with and work closely With The VA. Both circumstances put me in contact with very underperforming and I daresay incompetent iindividuals. I believe the VA needs much improvement.
    Like (66)
    Follow
    Share
    We need to focus on granting the VA more resources and stronger infrastructure to handle the needs of our veterans, not focus on firing people from an already-understaffed agency. There are bigger problems with the VA that should be addressed first.
    Like (66)
    Follow
    Share
    Of COURSE it should be easy to get rid of bad employees at any level! Good gravy! How much more incompetent can the government get?!? "You're bad at your job, and you've been bad at your job, and you're not getting any better. But we're going to let you keep doing it. As you were! Now let's get those veterans some healthcare!" Yeesh. And some of you people, with the utter disaster of the VA (a 100% government-run and -funded healthcare program) staring you in the face, somehow still think getting government more involved in healthcare would help anything.
    Like (38)
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    If incompetent employees can't be fired, it's because their management is unwilling to do the record-keeping required to demonstrate that they are actually incompetent. Furthermore, the VA is currently underfunded and understaffed, so firing VA employees should be the last thing on the agenda if we actually care about our veterans. I am disappointed that Rep. Gottheimer voted for this bill.
    Like (30)
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    Just another tool to be able to intimidate and threaten employees who don't agree with political mandate of managers.
    Like (20)
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    This is crucial to facilitate revamping this broken system. Poor performers who fail our veterans must be held accountable.
    Like (19)
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    I'm leaning for support of this VA bill. Maybe we should setting manager goals and then start deducting from his salary for not meeting various goals. But please give him at least $15/hr to keep the union happy 😘
    Like (16)
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    Maybe draining this swamp will start to give proper care to veterans.
    Like (15)
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    Federal employees should be career employees, not at the whim of a political party.
    Like (15)
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    "The VA’s leadership needs more flexibility for dealing with employees who have performed poorly, whether it’s firing or suspending them, or recouping bonuses that they didn’t deserve." I agree. "The VA has struggled to punish executives accused of wrongdoing since employees covered up long waits at veteran hospitals across the country and an investigation found a corrosive management culture." I agree. As a veteran, I expect the VA to serve me and my fellow veterans with respect and fairness. I expect the VA employees to be professionals and their misconduct, either on or off-duty should be punished. The VA has a history of negative conduct and this bill would be a move in the the right direction.
    Like (13)
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    There's a process for getting rid of bad employees and I'm suspicious of anyone who tries to circumvent it. The VA also has had some whistleblowers who've brought to light some bad practices and management would have loved to cull those who they thought might be responsible.
    Like (12)
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    Accountability. It is a dying ideology within the American mindset. If you commit fraud, perform poorly, misconduct yourself, etc on the job, the employer should have the right to reprimand in a way that alters your behavior. Obviously, there still needs to be some type of "strike" system that allows for redemption and disallows any misconduct on the side of management. Our culture and society has created a "Do Whatever I Want" attitude with many people in this country, especially when they know that no harm can come of their actions. It is time for people to be accountable for their actions, regardless of their societal stature or protections under over-reaching statutes. If you under perform, work harder. If you mess up, fix your mistakes. If you misconduct yourself, grow up.
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    I would say the same standards should apply for another group of federal employees who aren't performing up to par: the US Congress. How about when they fail to make any headway their constituency gets to fire them? Or demote them? Or decrease their pension???
    Like (11)
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    It has been a long-standing "joke" that the VA is where veterans go to get treated to death. And it can always ALWAYS be traced back to the government employee mindset "I only have to be here until my shift ends, so someone else can be responsible for this." The lack of accountability, the red tape, the beurocracy is literally killing people.
    Like (11)
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    I'm 100% in agreement. This is the way it should be throughout government.
    Like (9)
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