Our veterans are inherently selfless, having put their lives on the line to defend our freedom – often while their families put everything on hold waiting for these heroes to return home. Unfortunately, problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have persisted for years, and many of our returning heroes face uphill battles to receive the benefits they deserve and earned.
Even worse, the VA’s routine and pervasive refusal to seriously discipline employees who have engaged in proven incompetence, corruption, and malfeasance is unacceptable and only compounds the problems facing the department. A recent study completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that, on average, it takes six months to a year to remove a permanent civil servant in the federal government, though it often takes longer.
This week, the House took action to put our veterans first by passing H.R. 1259, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. This bill grants Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin additional authority to remove employees due to poor performance or misconduct, recoup bonuses and awards, increase whistleblower protections, and reform the appeals process for veteran benefits.
Our heroes didn’t wait to answer the call of duty, and they shouldn’t have to wait for timely care. They deserve the utmost respect for protecting our freedoms. Their sacrifices allow us the privilege to voice our opinions, vote, and live in the most charitable Nation on earth.
In order to change the culture at the VA for the better, I will continue to seek solutions in Congress to help our veterans long after their days of active duty conclude. The House is committed to fighting for our retired servicemembers who have been neglected by a broken department. While it has been several years since the corruption and dysfunction at the VA was exposed, we will continue to work to fix the countless problems that have been ignored. I will never waver in my commitment to creating a 21st century VA, and the passage of the VA Accountability First Act is one more step towards ensuring that our veterans are receiving the care and support they deserve.
The Honorable Jody Hice represents Georgia’s 10th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee