The Department of Veterans Affairs Equitable Employee Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 1856) provides valuable new tools for increasing accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, S. 1856 is the only legislation before the Senate VA committee that provides a multi-faceted, commonsense approach to ensuring real accountability.
The bill gives managers broader authority to address dangers in the workplace. Equally important, S. 1856 ensures that managers make full use of the many accountability tools they already have in current law to address misconduct and poor performance. The bill will:
- Ensure the safety of veterans and employees: Managers are given new authority to immediately suspend without pay an employee whose performance or misconduct is a clear and direct threat to public health or safety.
- Improve management performance: Requires training and comprehensive performance plans for VA political appointees and managers on whistleblower rights, workforce recruitment, employee engagement and leadership building.
- Strengthen whistleblower protections: Closes the gap in current whistleblower law by ensuring that the Office of Special Counsel can process complaints about retaliatory performance evaluations.
- Curb improper dealings between contractors and VA officials: Addresses widespread “revolving door” problems by restricting the ability of former VA officials to receive compensation as contractors.
- Limit paid administrative leave to 14 days: Prohibits managers from placing employees in nonproductive, non-duty status for prolonged periods. Managers will be required to make quicker assessments of whether an employee should be put back to work serving veterans or should be terminated or reassigned.
AFGE strongly encourages the Senate to pass Senator Blumenthal’s bill and reject S. 1082, which would give VA management greater power to silence whistleblowers and create a culture of fear for front-line workers -- an environment similar to the one that led to the wait list scandal in 2014.