By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON—House lawmakers wasted no time beginning the 115th Congress last month with legislation addressing VA accountability.
Among the first bills passed was one requiring all reprimands and admonishments given to VA employees to remain in their file as long as they are employed by the agency. Currently, an admonishment and reprimand can only stay on an employee’s record for two and three years, respectively.
“The reason I introduced this legislation is simple—it allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to maintain accurate records of disciplinary actions against employees,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) in a statement. “The file can then be taken into consideration when an employee is up for a bonus or promotion. My bill is intended to bring more transparency and accountability to the way we serve our veterans.”
The bill, according to his office, “does not impose new penalties or affect the existing due process rights for a VA employee to appeal disciplinary action.”
Also passing the House was a bill directing VA to adopt the FDA’s unique device identification system (UDI) for labeling of all biological implants and to implement an automated inventory system to ensure veterans do not receive expired or otherwise contaminated tissue.
House Committee of Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, MD, (R-TN) who introduced the bill, cited a 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report finding “the VA does not use a standardized process for tracking biological tissue from cadaver donor to living veteran recipient. In the event of a recall, it would often be impossible to track down which patient received contaminated tissue.”
Both laws would need to pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump before becoming law.
“These important pieces of legislation are just two of many steps House Republicans are taking to reform the VA,” Roe said of the bills.
In addition to those proposals, lawmakers took aim at accountability with other legislation last month, including a bill that would require VA to revoke bonuses paid to employees involved in electronic wait-list manipulations.