Senate-Passed VA Accountability Bill Likely to Sail Through House Next Week

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says House will hold vote on Tuesday

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin / Getty Images

The House will vote next Tuesday on Senate-passed legislation to make it easier for the secretary of Veterans Affairs to fast-track the firing of federal employees for misconduct, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced on Twitter Wednesday.

McCarthy told President Donald Trump the chamber will send the bill to the White House for a signature next week. The measure sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support on Tuesday, bringing the president one step closer to declaring victory on a key policy goal.

Trump lauded the Senate measure in a tweet Tuesday night and called on the House to "get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can't tolerate the substandard care for our vets."

The new Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, introduced in the Senate last month, will lower the standard of evidence needed for managers to reprimand or terminate employees for misconduct within the agency.

VA Secretary David Shulkin has encouraged lawmakers for months to pass legislation that would make it easier to fire employees who have put the lives of veterans at risk. Shulkin raised concerns after he faced difficulty firing a VA worker who was caught watching porn while with a patient.

The bill would grant Shulkin the authority to fire senior executives over a 21-day grievance process—a nine-day reduction from current law.

The bill would extend the appeals period for rank-and-file employees placed on administrative leave to 180 days, but would enable the department to withhold pay from those workers who are awaiting a case determination. Employees convicted of a felony related to their job would have their pensions reduced and bonuses stripped.

The bill would also extend whistleblower protections and codify into law the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection that Trump set up in May through executive order.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R., Tenn.) and ranking member Tim Walz (D., Minn.) have expressed strong support for the Senate bill. The two released statements on Wednesday pressing the House to take up the legislation without delay.

"With the Senate's passage of this legislation, we are one step closer to creating a true culture of accountability at VA while protecting the whistleblowers who are essential to identifying and addressing problems within the department," Roe said.

Tiffany Haverly, communications director of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that the House will consider the legislation next week.

The vote planned for Tuesday arrives more than three years after the 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center where dozens of veterans died while waiting for care.