H.R. 3956, VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act

H.R. 3956

VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act

Sponsor
Rep. Mike Bost

Date
May 23, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Molly Newell

Floor Situation

On Monday, May 23, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3956, as amended, the VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on November 5, 2015, by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) and was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs which ordered the bill reported, by voice vote, on May 18, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3956, as amended, would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), no later than 120 days after enactment, to develop and implement a plan to hire a director for each VA medical center without a permanent director. Priority must be given to hiring directors for medical centers that have not had a permanent director for the longest periods. Additionally, the Secretary must submit semiannual reports to Congress until January 1, 2018 listing each medical center that lacks a permanent director. The bill would also require that each director of a VA medical center annually certify compliance with the scheduling directive (or any successor directive that replaces it, prohibit VA medical center leaders from receiving awards or bonuses if their facility fails to certify compliance, and require VA to ensure that directives and policies apply to each VA office or facility in a uniformly.

Background

According to data from VA, several VA medical centers are managed by acting or temporary directors due to high turnover among senior leaders in the Veterans Health Administration in the last few years. Some of these medical centers have not been managed by a permanent director for a long period.

Pursuant to section 317.903 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, a member of the Senior Executive Service may not serve in a temporary position in a department or agency of the Federal for periods longer than 120-day increments, and no member may be detailed to an unclassified position for a period longer than 240 days.

The inability of the VA to recruit qualified, permanent candidates as directors of medical centers, combined with the policies described in the previous paragraph, leads to frequent turnover of directors at the medical centers which impedes the ability of system management to engage in long-term planning and other functions necessary to improve service delivery to veterans.

According to the bill sponsor, “No business or organization can successfully operate under a revolving door of interim leaders – certainly not one tasked with caring for America’s heroes. At a time when restoring accountability and leadership at the VA is a primary focus, we can’t afford to continue operating in this haphazard way. As a veteran myself, I’m pleased to do my part in providing the stability necessary to ensure our veterans receive the best care possible.”[1]

Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Directive 2010-027, VHA Outpatient Scheduling Processes and Procedures, provides national policy for scheduling outpatient clinic appointments and for ensuring the competency of staff directly or indirectly involved in the scheduling process.

The directive requires annual certification of full compliance with the content of the directive. However, that requirement was waived in 2013, the year before Congress uncovered the use of unauthorized waiting lists at the Phoenix VA Health Care System in Phoenix, Arizona, that led to a system-wide access to care scandal.

Though VA has since reinstated the certification requirement for VHA Directive 2010-027, non-compliance with VA’s scheduling policies continues to be a concern.

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[1] See Press Release, “Bost Bill Restores Certainty in VA Leadership,” Nov. 9, 2015.

Cost

A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates is unavailable.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Molly Newell with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 21374.