published Friday, May 30th, 2014

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander co-sponsors VA accountability bill

In the wake of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation today, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. has announced he will cosponsor a bill designed to hold senior VA leaders accountable as investigations into mismanagement at the VA continue.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will allow the new VA secretary to immediately fire or demote senior executive VA employees for poor job performance, instead of relying what can typically be a long, drawn-out process.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an identical version of the bill last week by a bipartisan vote.

“We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude we couldn’t possibly repay, so the idea that many are not receiving the care they deserve is unacceptable,” Alexander said in a prepared statement. “There has been a lack of accountability at the VA, and this bill will allow for timely and effective action to hold the people in charge accountable for their failures.”

Alexander's office said the bill gives the VA more authority to make quick and decisive changes to management amidst “numerous allegations of mismanagement at Veterans Affairs health facilities, including those in Tennessee.”

The bill, named the VA Management Accountability Act, also requires a written explanation to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees within 30 days of taking such action.

The current system requires 30 days’ notice for termination and allows for an appeals process.

Alexander said the bill has received support from multiple veterans organizations.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said in a statement that while a change in VA leadership was necessary, systemic problems in the VA “run much deeper than one person.”

Corker and Alexander have recently written open letters to Shinseki calling for an a third-party auditor to review reports of neglect, along with asking the VA to provide information related to the average time Tennessee veterans are waiting for care at VA facilities.

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