Mar 14, 2017

VA Accountability First Act Update


Update: On March 16, 2017, the H.R. 1259 passed by recorded vote 237-178. It has not yet been determined if and when the legislation will hit the Senate floor. As more information is made avaiable NAGE will update this story.

Recently, Representative Phil Roe (T-TN), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation to provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct entitled the VA Accountability First Act (HR 1259). However, the misleading VA Accountability First Act (H.R. 1259) unfairly targets the hardworking employees at the VA by stripping them of the rights necessary to ensure a fair and just action. The bill grants the VA Secretary the power to fire, suspend, or demote an employee upon his or her discretion, with little oversight, while notably exempting political appointees. This bill also shortens the advance notice of discipline and response period between the agency and employee, as well as expedites the time the MSPB has to render a decision on an appeal.

David J. Holway, National President, NAGE/IBPO, called the legislation “egregious and unnecessary” in an opposition letter to members of the House. He stated, “members of Congress have continued to introduce legislation to fix the problem at the VA, but all each accountability bill does is eliminate employee rights.”

NAGE/IBPO and your colleagues across the country need your help to defeat this bill. We expect that similar legislation will be introduced in the Senate.  Contact your representative and tell them to vote NO to H.R. 1259 and any legislation that strips federal employees of their due process rights. To call your representative in the House, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to speak with your congressman.

What YOU need to know about H.R. 1259:
  • Representative Roe believes the VA should be privatized and will use any negative results that come from legislation like this to support his argument.
  • Representative Roe believes that it is hard to remove poor performing employees. This however is inaccurate. There are processes which have been in place for decades for removing employees that ensures they are only fired for cause, but poor employees can be and are removed.
  • This bill grants the Secretary the power to fire, suspend, or demote any employee, however, political appointees are exempt which can potential lead to a fearful work environment.
  • This bill requires the agency give an employee 10 days advanced notice of proposed discipline. Current law requires 30 days’ notice.
  • This bill requires the MSPB render a decision on an appeal within 45 days. There is no law regarding decision times, however, decisions are usually issued within 120 days.
  • H.R. 1259 lowers the agency’s bar for producing evidence necessary to for the MSPB to uphold discipline in misconduct cases from a “preponderance of evidence” to “substantial evidence”, the lowest standard of evidence, which can result in discipline for falsified or exaggerated actions.

We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few; but we can't have both. - Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
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