Alabama lawmakers support bill that would make top-level VA changes easier

May 19, 2014
Representative Roby In The News

A trio of Alabama Republicans have signed on to a bill that would make it easier for the secretary of Veterans Affairs to fire or demote senior executives.

Reps. Martha Roby, Mike Rogers and Mo Brooks are among 188 co-sponsors of a bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., which would give the head of the department "greater authority," to fire Senior Executive Service personnel in the same manner "a member of Congress can remove a member of their staff." It would also allow the VA secretary to demote the senior executive to another grade.

The House is scheduled to take up the bill Wednesday.

Currently, agencies have the power to remove senior executives who receive two "unsatisfactory," ratings within five consecutive years or two "less than fully successful," ratings within three years. The process of removing the employee is long and can be difficult, something lawmakers said they'd like to change.

The Senior Executive Association said it is opposed to the bill.

"Not only is this bill a solution in search of a problem, it is unfair and does not further the goal that we all share to ensure the highest quality care for our nation's veterans," Senior Executive Association President Carol Bonosaro said. "The bill now allows an agency head - a political appointee - to fire Senior Executives with no due process and no oversight or, alternatively, to demote them to any level of the General Schedule. This is a terrible precedent that threatens to politicize the career senior leadership of the government.

The bill comes at a particularly sensitive time for the VA and Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has been under increasing fire for reports of treatment delays at medical facilities that serve veterans. Shinseki, who has rebuffed calls to resign, was grilled last week by Senators about reports some veterans had died waiting for care and that the medical facilities maintained secret waiting lists of appointment times.

Dr. Robert Petzel, undersecretary of health at VA, stepped down Friday, ahead of his planned resignation set for later this year.

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