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House Passes New VA Accountability Legislation

passed

By Debbie Gregory.

H R 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, passed in the House on September 14, 2016 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The bill was introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)

The legislation provides for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes. It changes how the Veterans Affairs Department disciplines and fires its employees and senior executives.

The Obama administration said it’s pleased to see VA’s appeals proposal appear in the legislation, and it supports those specific provisions.

The bill establishes an additional whistle blower complaint process, which includes suspension and removal actions against supervisory employees who commit prohibited personnel actions against a whistle blower.

Additionally, the bill also includes a long-awaited and often lauded proposal to reform the veterans appeals process. The legislation incorporates the VA’s proposal for appeals reform, which the department developed this spring with several veterans service organizations.

The Obama administration said it’s pleased to see VA’s appeals proposal appear in the legislation, and it supports those specific provisions.

The bill has received criticism from some federal employee unions and organizations.

“This legislation is not about improving how we treat and care for our veterans,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox in a statement. “It’s a partisan effort to allow favoritism and cronyism to govern the VA by turning VA employees, and ultimately every federal worker, into an at-will employee who can be fired at any time with little to no recourse.”

To see how your representative voted, go to  https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/114-2016/h519

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Extensive VA Reform Bill Unveiled in Senate

Isakson

By Debbie Gregory.

It’s been over two years since scandal rocked the Department of Veteran Affairs and forced the resignation of much of its leadership. In an attempt to address long wait times for claims processing, healthcare appointments and a lack of accountability for VA employees, Senate leaders have unveiled a massive veterans reform proposal.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said he is confident the proposal can become law later this year.

The bipartisan omnibus package will improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and make sweeping improvements to veterans’ health care and benefits.

“In this bill we are addressing all of the things we have been hearing about from our veterans,” he said. “Accountability is addressed, delivered, and we’re going to have a new VA in America.”

Dubbed the Veterans First Act, legislation would give removal authority for all employees at VA based on performance or misconduct, prohibit bonuses for employees accused of wrongdoing, and protections for whistleblowers. It would also expand a VA program that allows seriously-injured veterans to receive care in their own homes, enhance programs for veterans’ mental health care, and address the VA’s massive backlog of veteran disability claims appeals. Other key provisions include: health care; disability compensation; pensions; education; employment/transition; homelessness and burial benefits.

The bill also contains language that will theoretically streamline the Veterans Choice program to allow veterans to get care outside a VA facility. The current Veterans Choice program is extremely limited and frustrating for many who have tried to use it.

Unlike a separate, pending House proposal, this legislation does not propose any cuts to future GI Bill benefits to pay for the program expansions.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: VA Memo to Employees: By Debbie Gregory

VA memoEarlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald sent a memorandum out to all VA employees, concerning the future of the VA and how he intends to implement reform within the troubled system.

Sec. McDonald’s message began by explaining how he has gone about his intelligence gathering. He explained that by hearing from Veterans and family members who receive the care that the department provides, he was better able to understand what and where efforts within the VA need to be ramped up. The VA head said that feedback from more than 2,000 VA employees from 20 facilities that provide healthcare service to more than 1.4 million Veterans has helped to shape the manner in which the VA system can retool its organizational functional practices to better serve Veterans.

The secretary asked for the cooperation of all VA employees to help with their shared mission to make the VA system easier to navigate for Veterans. McDonald said that he and all VA employees should purse a shared goal of ensuring that Veterans have a “clear understanding of VA and where to go for what they need within any of our facilities…”

In order to accomplish this goal and other reforms within the VA, Sec. McDonald laid out the following plan:

1)      Establish a new VA-wide customer service organization to provide top-rated customer service to Veterans.  McDonald plans to implement a new office for a Chief Customer Service Officer who will report directly to the VA Secretary.  The duties of this new position will be to drive VA culture and practices to understand and respond to the expectations of Veteran customers.

2)      Establish a single regional framework that will simplify internal coordination, enhance customer service and facilitate partnering. This collaborative effort within the VA will allow Veterans to more easily navigate the VA system without having to understand the bureaucratic structure of the department.

3)      Establish a national network of Community Veteran Advisory Councils to coordinate better service delivery with state and local community partners.

4)      Realign the VA’s internal business processes into a shared services model in which organizations across the department leverage the same support services, to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase productivity.

McDonald also mentioned the activation of the Idea House website on Veterans Day. The website is intended to function as an electronic suggestion box where VA employees can submit their ideas and proposed solutions based on the challenges they see within their work environment.

This is a wonderful opportunity to greatly improve the VA system for the betterment of current Veterans, as well as for future generations of Veterans to come. Everyone in the Veteran community, as well as those who care about the Veteran community will be watching the VA secretary’s actions with apprehension and anticipation. As a people united, we all hope to see Veterans receive the best care available.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: VA Memo to Employees: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: Article Sparks Intrigue: By Debbie Gregory

ArticleWith the confirmation of Robert McDonald as the new permanent secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, many in the military and Veteran communities are eager to see what his term will bring, and how he will affect change in the VA system. The staff at Military Connection would like to know what members of the Veteran community think about McDonald’s confirmation, and how he should approach his task of reforming the VA. Using the following editorial article from The Arizona Republic, as a guide, we ask that you formulate your own ideas on how you think Sec. McDonald should approach refurbishing the VA.

 VA scandal: How to fix a broken system
By The Arizona Republic editorial board

 As Seen in The Arizona Republic

Mr. Robert McDonald:

We admire your courage. In accepting this nomination, you are about to confront one of the most daunting challenges in all of federal governance: reforming the VA hospital system.

You face three great challenges.

The first is size. With 6.5 million patients, 300,000 employees and more than 150 hospitals and 850 clinics, the system is too large to adequately perform its core mission of providing lifesaving and recuperative care to veterans of war.

You must make the VA health-care system smaller. This will be your greatest challenge.

By returning to the VA”s roots and treating only war and service-related injuries, you will enhance care for all veterans. Congress is working to find private-sector alternatives. Help them find answers for those whose needs are unrelated to their service. It does no favors to vets to make this organization bigger.

The second challenge is the corrosive culture you inherit.

Imagine how daunting your job leading Procter and Gamble would have been if you could not trust your subordinates. Imagine what kind of company P and G would be if your down-line directors believed they could mislead you and get away with it. Your chances of accomplishing real reform would be next to nil.

The VA has many great, duty-minded, veteran-centric employees. It also has too many employees, in too many important positions, who have demonstrated they will lie. They must go.

The third of your challenges is time. Bureaucracies as large and dysfunctional as the VA will resist change by waiting you out. You have no more than 31 months – realistically, less – to enact reforms before President Barack Obama leaves office and the next wave of political appointees moves in. You must act quickly.

There are steps you can take that will improve your chances of ensuring quality health care for vets. None will be easy. Some are dramatic.

Click here to read the full editorial.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Article Sparks Intrigue:   By Debbie Gregory