AFGE lauds legislation introduced by Rep. Mark Takano of California that finally addresses accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in substantive and comprehensive ways. H.R. 2999, the Fair VA Accountability Act, takes meaningful steps to reduce mismanagement, protect whistleblowers from management retaliation, and hold individuals accountable without trampling on workplace and Constitutional rights.
Accountability and fair workplace rules go hand in hand. Rep. Takano’s Fair VA Accountability Act tackles some of the biggest problems arising out of the VA wait list scandal, such as excessive paid administrative leave and managers putting personal gain ahead of the agency’s mission.
This legislation also allows the VA to remove dangerous employees from the workplace immediately, while still preserving fundamental due process rights for the workforce.
H.R. 2999 prohibits senior VA executives from receiving VA contracts for at least a year after they leave the agency, and limits the use of paid administrative leave to 14 days. The bill also provides real protections for whistleblowers, unlike H.R. 1994, the bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida. Under the Miller bill every VA employee would become, in essence, an at-will employee with no effective due process rights, thereby discouraging potential whistleblowers from coming forward.
Under H.R. 2999, whistleblowers have due process protection against retaliation and those who prove that their dismissal was a result of retaliation will also be entitled to back pay.
AFGE is urging House lawmakers to support Rep. Takano’s Fair Accountability Act and reject the cruel, destructive and unconstitutional due process cuts in H.R. 1994 and companion bill S. 1082 introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
The Miller and Rubio bills would actually decrease VA accountability by giving bad actors potent new tools for silencing employees, punishing would-be whistleblowers brave enough to stand up for veterans’ care, and increasing discrimination against newly hired veterans and other targeted employees.
Rep. Takano’s H.R. 2999 is the only current legislation put forth that can equip the VA with lasting, comprehensive accountability.