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GOP Senators Seek To Put Focus Back On VA Scandal

Politics Tribune News Service

GOP Senators Seek To Put Focus Back On VA Scandal

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By Niels Lesniewski and Connor O’Brien, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — A group of Republican senators hopes to return attention to accountability issues at the Veterans’ Affairs Department that have disappeared from the headlines.

“The television cameras may have turned their focus elsewhere, but we will not,” Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran said in a statement Thursday announcing he’s spearheading the Senate companion to a bill designed to give more power to the VA secretary to discipline senior executives engaged in improper practices.

“Despite the passage of the Choice Act last year, the VA is still not doing enough to hold those responsible accountable for their corrupt behavior when treating our nation’s veterans,” Moran said, calling for dismantling of a “system that rewards mediocrity and failure.”

He’s joined on the effort by Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Marco Rubio of Florida, according to an advance release obtained by CQ Roll Call. McCain has consistently said that more needs to be done in the aftermath of the scandal that originated out of the VA hospital in Phoenix.

Among the changes, the bill would allow for senior employees to face reductions in their pensions after relevant criminal convictions, and an overhaul of the way the VA handles performance evaluations.

“Last year, I was encouraged that my proposal authorizing the VA secretary to fire bad managers became law. Now we have to make it clear that if you’re a senior VA executive found guilty of criminal activity during your tenure, you should have no guarantee of a bonus or pension,” Rubio said in a statement.

A companion measure from House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) was introduced last week.

The legislation comes as a response to Secretary Robert McDonald’s repeated assertion that he has no authority to claw back pensions earned over the course of an entire civil service career. Only a conviction of a high crime such as treason, VA officials have said, would negate the pension of a civil servant.

Clawing back pensions for senior employees is one in a series of measures lawmakers, particularly House Republicans, have pushed in an effort to spur greater accountability at VA despite civil service protections. Miller has also introduced legislation that would authorize McDonald to make underperforming employees pay back their bonuses after VA officials described their authority to do so as “very limited.”

An aide to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the new chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, did not have an immediate answer about the chairman’s potential support for the legislation, but given Miller’s leadership in the House, it would seem to have a path to advance.

Photo: Jim Greenhill via Flickr

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5 Comments

  1. docb January 29, 2015

    How novel…the gop bags are really going to take the credit/fall for what they did to veterans by blocking their benefits!!!

    http://www.businessinsider.com/veterans-groups-gop-2014-2

    Reply
    1. itsfun January 30, 2015

      Are they just suppose to forget all about the problems or should they try to fix the problems?

  2. Dominick Vila January 30, 2015

    Cynicism and political opportunism notwithstanding, I believe a good understanding of the VA problems is essential, if the goal is to make that institution more efficient and cost effective. Giving authority to the VA Director to discipline or fire senior Civil Service and Contractor Executives involved in wrongdoing is a step in the right direction, but it is just a band-aid when we take into consideration the systemic and cultural problems that have prevailed in that government institution since at least the Vietnam War. I support doing everything humanly possible to make the VA a model for other government institutions to follow.

    Reply
    1. itsfun January 30, 2015

      Ditto

  3. cbarneym February 14, 2015

    The GOP do not really want to put the VA scandal back in the spotlight because the real reason for it might come to light.

    America began the war with Afghanistan on 10/7/01 & won it by 12/7/01 as anti-Taliban & American troops controlled ever major city in the country. The war was basically over & the GW Bush Admin had won a great victory with only 8 wounded and 12 fatalities.

    However, Pres GW (we know Saddam has WMD) Bush did not take the advise of his father, Pres GHW Bush of the 1st Iraq war, who argued against elimination of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in a 1998 book co-authored with his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, entitled “A World Transformed;”. see chapter 19, pg 489-90.

    Pres. GW Bush did not take his fathers advice & launched a 3/20/03 unprovoked attack on Iraq. Thus, as of 1/10/14 the US military suffered 4,410 killed & 31,942 wounded in Iraq; and 2,299 killed & 19,572 wounded in Afghanistan.

    Therefore, the fault of an overworked VA lies with Pres. GW Bush and the politicians of both parties who blindly followed him into an Iraq war that put thousands of additional American soldiers into the VA system.

    Reply

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