Jonah Bennett on May 23, 2017
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin urged the Senate to quickly pass accountability legislation in advance of the Senate’s markup of the bill Wednesday.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Shulkin stated: “I’m pleased to see the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee moving forward tomorrow on our much-needed accountability bill, and hope the senators pass it promptly without delay.”
Shulkin further referenced the fact that Brittney Lowe, a senior interior designer at the Memphis, was able to seamlessly return to work after serving a 60-day jail sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol, which The Daily Caller News Foundation exclusively reported on May 17.
Another example from this month underscores the need for accountability at VA: An employee who was convicted no fewer than three times for driving under the influence of alcohol, and who just served a 60-day jail sentence, is now returning to work at a VA facility.
“No other hospital system or business would have to put up with this, and the Senate bill is a solid first step on accountability,” Shulkin added in the release. “More to come.”
Memphis VA whistleblower Sean Higgins told Communities Digital News in late March that Lowe was taking advantage of “donated leave” while she was on jail, which employees normally use for unanticipated sicknesses.
But an internal document seen by TheDCNF indicates that the VA abruptly rescinded approval for Lowe to be a “recipient on the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program” on May 3, just a few days after Communities Digital News ran the story.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is set Wednesday to markup the VA accountability introduced in early May, which accelerates the firing process and allows the VA to recoup bonuses. The bill is slightly different from the VA Accountability First Act, in that this new legislation removes senior executives from the jurisdiction of the Merit Systems Protection Board and places them directly under the authority of Shulkin.
Moreover, the bill also increases the termination process to 145 days, although during this time period, employees will not be on payroll.
“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the proponents of the bill, said in a statement.
“We must make real changes that put the well-being of our service members before the best interests of bureaucrats,” he added.
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