U.S Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. is continuing his efforts to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, cosponsoring the “VA Quality Employment Act” brought out by U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala.
Strange’s bill would reform hiring and other HR matters at more than 1,200 VA health service centers across the nation. The bill’s supporters, which also include U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Ok., insist the bill will help the “VA attract and retain top talent, hold poor performance accountable, and deliver exceptional services and care to America’s veteran population."
“For millions of Americans who have served, Veterans Administration employees represent the face of our nation’s promise of care,” Strange said on Friday. “It is critical that VA facilities stand ready to meet their needs. By implementing reviews of agency leadership and providing talented caregivers with ongoing training and development, the VA Quality Employment Act builds on the work of President Trump’s administration to reform the agency. I am proud to champion an effort to help the VA keep its covenant with our nation’s heroes.”
“It is crucial that employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs stand ready to provide exceptional care for our veterans and always take responsibility for their actions in the work place,” Rubio said in support of the proposal. “While we have made significant progress on VA reform in recent months, there is still more that can be done to ensure our nation’s heroes are getting the services and care they need and deserve. I am proud to support legislation that will further our agenda of reforming the VA.”
In recent years, Rubio has been leading the charge for VA reform on Capitol Hill. Back in May, Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., to bring out the “Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act" which would “reform the VA by allowing the secretary to dismiss bad employees, and ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.” The Senate passed the measure on voice vote last month. Under the proposal, the VA secretary would have more power to remove or demote under performing and incompetent employees while giving whistleblowers more protection, including creating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in the VA. The bill would also ensure more accountability in the VA medical system, giving the VA secretary the ability to “directly appoint individuals to the positions of Medical Center Director and Director of Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) if they have demonstrated ability in the medical profession, health care administration, or health care fiscal management."
At the start of the year, Rubio reintroduced his “VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act.” Last July, Rubio teamed up with then U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who was serving as the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, to bring out the bill last summer. That bill adds more “protections for whistleblowers,” would “increase flexibility to remove VA employees for poor performance or misconduct” and “reform the department’s disability benefits appeals process.” The proposal also closes loopholes from the “VA Accountability Act” from Miller and Rubio which passed the House in 2015 but stalled in the Senate.