House to act on VA accountability; Dems wary on private care

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington Monday

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington Monday

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday that he expects few, if any, House Democrats to support the bill and that it can not pass the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and questioned whether Trump would want to be associated with a rollback of Wall Street regulations: "It seems like we're moving in exactly the opposite direction the administration said it was going to move".

Tuesday's vote comes as VA struggles to regain its footing three years after a scandal over falsified records for medical appointments, an embarrassing episode for President Barack Obama that forced the removal of his VA secretary.

"This is the strongest accountability measure for the VA that can be signed into law", Isakson said.

VA Secretary David Shulkin has said that problem employees represent a small minority.

When the scandal was brought to light, VA authorities were unable to sanction or terminate the incompetent employees because of existing civil service protections.

The bill has broad support including from: VA Secretary Shulkin, The American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Reserve Officers Association, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and Vietnam Veterans of America, among others.

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The bill now goes back to the House, where the revisions are expected to pass easily. But the measure was viewed as more in balance with workers' rights than a version passed by the House in March.

McCarthy told President Donald Trump the chamber will send the bill to the White House for a signature next week. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, pointing to a proposed VA budget that would give double-digit increases to outside care while funding for VA programs remains mostly flat. Sen. "To shield employees from consequences brings down the entire department, it demoralizes the workforce and undermines the core mission of the VA", Rubio said.

On Tuesday, bipartisan legislation to hold wrongdoers at the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for its treatment of veterans passed the Senate. The office would also maintain a toll-free number and website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.

The measure would lower the burden of proof required to fire VA employees.

Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America, hailed the bill's passage as "long overdue". "The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better than the level of service they've been getting". But he allowed that the VA would be open to modifications in discussion with Congress. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.

Delays had resulted in the deaths of dozens of sick veterans as they waited to see doctors.

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