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IAVA: “VA Accountability First Act” Necessary to Restore Trust Within VA

Washington, DC (March 16, 2017) — Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and its more than 425,000 members today called on Members of Congress to join them in support for the “VA Accountability First Act of 2017.” This bill, which passed the House of Representatives tonight now heads to the Senate and is a key tool for the Secretary of the VA to hold bad actors under his leadership accountable. These long overdue reforms are a priority for our members and needed to help restore trust within the VA system.

“It has been nearly three years since the scandal in Phoenix alerted the country to the outrageous state of the VA health care system, and yet not enough has been done to ensure that the VA is equipped with the necessary authorities to address workforce accountability,” said Tom Porter, Legislative Director of IAVA. “The large majority of VA employees serve veterans with distinction, but there are employees whose poor performance or, at worst, gross negligence, put veterans at risk. They need to immediately be removed from the VA to restore trust within the VA system. This bill provides the VA leadership those necessary authorities while still providing due process.”

The “VA Accountability First Act of 2017” would authorize the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with a number of actions to remove/fire, demote, suspend without pay, or otherwise reprimand VA employees for performance or misconduct. It would allow for the Secretary to reduce benefits for VA employees convicted of certain crimes, or recoup bonuses paid to employees whose performance was deemed to have put veterans at risk.

“Today was a step in the right direction,” Porter continued, “but now the Senate has to do their part.  And with a sense of urgency.”

Earlier this month, IAVA sent a letter to Rep. Phil Roe, Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, in support of the legislation. The letter noted, “In the 114th Congress, too often the opportunity to pass [meaningful VA] legislation was lost because of minor disagreements over certain policy aspects. As a result, despite the bipartisan consensus in Congress that such reform was, and still is, desperately needed, this nation’s veterans are still awaiting comprehensive reform… Veterans have made great sacrifices in service to our nation. IAVA believes they deserve a VA that provides them with first class, quality, timely care. Congress must act to finally achieve this.”

Note to media: Email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. As a non-profit founded in 2004, IAVA’s mission is to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans. Celebrating its 12th year anniversary, IAVA has connected more than 1.2 million veterans with resources and community, and provided more than 7,300 veterans with personalized support from IAVA’s Master’s level social workers.