Committee on Veterans Affairs

Jeff Miller

Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

2015/03/04


Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of The American Legion

2015/02/25


Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees to receive the Legislative Presentation of the Disabeled American Veterans

2015/02/24


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2016

2015/02/11


Miller Proposes New VA Whistleblower Protections, More Accountability for Retaliators

2015/01/28

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday Chairman Miller introduced the Veterans Affairs Retaliation Prevention Act of 2015. The bill would provide VA whistleblowers with a means to solve problems at the lowest level possible, while offering them protection from reprisals and real accountability for those who reprise against them.  

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Establish a new system employees could use to report retaliation claims that emphasizes addressing problems at the lowest level possible. Supervisors would be required to report all retaliation claims to facility directors, eliminating the possibility for facility leaders to claim plausible deniability of such claims
  • Codify prohibitions against negative personnel actions for employees who file whistleblower complaints or who cooperate with congressional, Government Accountability Office or Inspector General investigations
  • Establish mandatory disciplinary penalties for employees found to have engaged in retaliation against whistleblowers
  • Establish a mandatory whistleblower protection training program for all VA employees

In the months since VA’s medical care wait times and accountability crises were exposed, the department’s treatment of whistleblowers has generated much discussion and controversy. Although VA leaders have pledged that whistleblower retaliation will not be tolerated, many VA whistleblowers contend little has changed in the wake of the department’s vows to protect employees who expose wrongdoing.

Incredibly, even as the department has reached legal settlements with whistleblowers who endured retaliation, those who retaliated against them have gone unpunished. According to Phoenix VA Health Care system whistleblower and settlement recipient Dr. Katherine Mitchell, “the physician chain of command and the HR chain of command that retaliated against me remain intact and, as far as I know, have never been held accountable.” Even after paying out more than $1 million taxpayer dollars to settle recent claims from employees who endured retaliation, VA has refused to say whether it would discipline the retaliators whose actions led to the settlements.

After introducing the bill, Chairman Miller released the following statement:

“Even though Sec. McDonald says VA will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers, the fact remains the department still has much more work to do when it comes to fully addressing this issue. This problem went unchecked at VA for years, and it would be naïve to think it would simply vanish upon the appointment of a new secretary and in the absence of the thorough housecleaning the department so desperately needs. VA’s transformation won’t be complete until employees at all levels understand there are tangible consequences for retaliating against whistleblowers. This will only be achieved through actions, not words. Though Sec. McDonald and other VA leaders have said protecting whistleblowers is important, they must also ensure the department moves swiftly to fire any employees who have engaged in whistleblower retaliation. That hasn’t happened yet, and this bill will give VA leaders more tools to ensure that it does.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Read the text of the bill here.

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“Examining the Quality and Cost of VA Health Care”

2015/01/28


Legislative Hearing on H.R. 189, H.R. 216, H.R. 245, H.R. 280, and H.R. 294.

2015/01/27


A Review of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

2015/01/27


Business Meeting to Designate Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (NY-4) to HVAC Subcommittees

2015/01/26


Miller Proposes Major VA Accountability Reforms

2015/01/22

Bill Would Give VA Secretary Authority to Reduce Corrupt Execs’ Pensions

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today Chairman Miller introduced the Increasing VA Accountability to Veterans Act of 2015. The bill would give the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary more authority to hold corrupt executives accountable, limit the amount of time VA senior executive service (SES) employees can spend on paid administrative leave and reform certain aspects of the department’s performance appraisal system for its senior executives. 

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Increase accountability by allowing the VA secretary to reduce an SES employee’s retirement pension upon conviction of a crime that influenced their work performance by reducing the years of service creditable to the employee’s pension
  • Reduce waste by limiting the amount of time VA senior executives could spend on paid administrative leave to 14 days unless the secretary can show good cause for an extension
  • Help end VA’s sordid bonus culture by reforming VA’s SES performance appraisal system so only 30 percent of senior executives could receive top performance ratings and qualify for bonuses
  • Require additional transparency regarding SES performance outcomes and require that all SES employees change jobs within the department at least once every five years

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which was signed into law Aug. 7, 2014, contained significant civil service reforms that gave the VA secretary complete authority to fire corrupt or incompetent senior executives. In remarks before signing the act, President Obama said, “If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired.  Period.  It shouldn’t be that difficult.”  Despite this fact, accountability remains extremely scarce at the department. In fact, in the wake of the biggest scandal in VA history, which centered on appointment wait time manipulation, not a single VA senior executive has been fired for wait time manipulation. Meanwhile, VA employees at the heart of the scandal have been placed on paid administrative leave for months on end.

After introducing the bill, Chairman Miller released the following statement:

“More than nine months after the VA scandal, Americans are asking ‘where is the accountability?’ Unfortunately, VA doesn’t have a good answer to this question. That’s why our focus remains on giving the VA secretary more tools to ensure corrupt and incompetent executives face serious consequences for mismanagement and malfeasance that harms veterans. Right now, the task at hand for VA leaders is replacing the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability, and we are going to give them everything they need to do get the job done.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

Read the text of the bill here.

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Contact Information

335 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone 202-225-3527
Fax 202-225-5486
veterans.house.gov


Membership

Dan Benishek

MICHIGAN's 1st DISTRICT

Gus Bilirakis

FLORIDA's 12th DISTRICT

Mike Coffman

COLORADO's 6th DISTRICT

Paul Cook

CALIFORNIA's 8th DISTRICT

Jeff Denham

CALIFORNIA's 10th DISTRICT

Bill Flores

TEXAS' 17th DISTRICT

Tim Huelskamp

KANSAS' 1st DISTRICT

Doug Lamborn

COLORADO's 5th DISTRICT

Jeff Miller

FLORIDA's 1st DISTRICT

Phil Roe

TENNESSEE's 1st DISTRICT

Jon Runyan

NEW JERSEY's 3rd DISTRICT

Jackie Walorski

INDIANA's 2nd DISTRICT

Brad Wenstrup

OHIO's 2nd DISTRICT