The Department of Veterans’ Affairs will no longer use its fast-track authorities to expedite the dismissal of senior employees following a legal challenge to the process, Capitol Hill officials said Friday.
The provision was part of the Veterans Choice Act passed in the wake of the 2014 VA wait time scandal and aimed to accelerate the appeals process for employees who had been fired to just three weeks. The process previously took multiple months.
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The Military Times reported that the VA’s decision to stop using its streamlined disciplinary powers reverts the department’s accountability rules to two years ago, prior to lawmakers approving reform.
"Everyone knows VA isn’t very good at disciplining employees, but this decision calls into question whether department leaders are even interested in doing so," Rep. Jeff Miller (R., Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement. "After all, VA is a place where egregious employee behavior, such as armed robbery participation and wait-time manipulation, is routinely tolerated."
Miller said the decision highlights the need for reforms across the federal government so that agency leaders can "swiftly and efficiently discipline those who can’t or won’t do their jobs–an ability that is presently almost nonexistent."
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a letter to Congress last month that the provision accelerating firings is unconstitutional because it denies a proper appeals process to employees.
The Military Times reported that the VA decision to nix its updated process was a direct response to the Justice Department’s announcement.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) called the move a "slap in the face to veterans."
"It is outrageous and unconscionable that the VA is choosing to blatantly ignore all of the accountability reforms set in place by the Veterans Choice Act," he said in a statement.