House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has signaled that the chamber will vote on a bill to allow the head of the Veterans Affairs Department to fire or demote senior executives for performance problems.
At a news conference Thursday, GOP lawmakers touted the measure as a way to help VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki address some of the department’s most pressing problems, including preventable deaths at health clinics, delayed construction projects, perceived slowness in the VA’s responses to congressional inquiries, and a longstanding claims backlog that the agency recently reduced by 44 percent.
“It’s time to clean up this mess, to bring real accountability to the Veterans administration, and soon the House will act to do just that,” Boehner said.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) sponsored the measure, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has proposed a companion bill.
Veterans groups, including the American Legion and Concerned Veterans of America, back the legislation. “This act will give the secretary of veterans affairs the freedom and the authority to manage his or her department as they see fit,” American Legion official Louis Celli said at the news conference.
The Senior Executives Association has opposed the measures, saying they would set a “terrible precedent” that threatens senior leadership in the government.
“With fear of retribution by an agency head, the career SES could well become a politicized corps that bends with the political winds rather than serving the American people free from political influence,” the group said in a recent statement.
The VA has said that the legislation would remove existing protections for federal civil servants, putting the agency at a competitive disadvantage as it tries to recruit and retain the best talent to serve veterans.
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