GOP Pushes VA Accountability Bill

Wrongful deaths, mismanagement of hospitals leads to push for reform

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) announce the VA accountability bill / AP
April 3, 2014

House Republican leadership is calling for increased transparency and accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after a series of wrongful deaths and cases of mismanagement at VA hospitals across the country.

At a Thursday press conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) touted new legislation titled the VA Management Accountability Act, which would give the VA secretary greater authority to fire senior officials.

Boehner highlighted cases of mismanagement, such as an instance at a VA hospital in Dayton, Ohio where hundreds of patients were exposed to Hepatitis B and C. The director of the hospital, Boehner said, received a bonus and was promoted.

An NBC 4 Washington investigation discovered this week that a senior VA official was rehired at an annual salary over $100,000 months after resigning following a fatal drunk driving accident in a government vehicle.

"You know, I thought I’d seen the worst of government, but this goes beyond the pale," Boehner said. "If you’re presiding over a bureaucracy that’s failing our veterans, you shouldn’t be receiving bonuses. You should be gone."

Boehner was flanked by representatives from veterans groups, such as the American Legion and Concerned Veterans for America, who support the bill.

"The key question is simple," said Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. "Who will you stand with: the vets who are being underserved or the bureaucrats who can't be fired?"

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who has introduced a mirror bill in the Senate, also said the agency needed greater oversight.

"The enormous and vast majority of men and women who work [at the VA] do a great job," Rubio said. "But when there's breakdowns, the people who run this agency should be held accountable."

However, the VA argues the bill would undermine rules to protect federal employees. The VA also noted that it fired 3,000 employees last year and six senior executives in the last two years.

House Republicans have hammered the VA in recent months after investigations by news outlets revealed that more than a dozen veterans had died because of delayed screenings at VA facilities.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, the VA is refusing to release the names of the hospitals where the deaths occurred.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee also launched a website last week highlighting nearly 70 instances over the past year where the VA refused to comment or ignored press requests.

The bill’s future is unclear, as it is unknown if Democratic Senate leadership will take up the legislation.