Inhofe Applauds Senate Passage of VA Accountability Act

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), applauded the Senate passage of S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which passed the Senate today by voice vote. Inhofe cosponsored this legislation. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 builds on S. 2554, which Inhofe introduced in the 114th Congress and allows the VA to  remove or demote a VA employee based on performance or misconduct.

In December 2015, USA Today published a disturbing article about the failure of VA facilities in Oklahoma to provide veterans the adequate care they deserve,” Inhofe said. “After listening to Oklahoma veterans and VA employees about the extent of the problems, I took action to ensure that the VA could fire bad actors by introducing the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act last Congress.

I am pleased that the Senate today is taking action to build upon these efforts by passing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. This legislation makes it easier for the VA to remove senior executives and increases accountability of all employees at the VA by allowing the VA secretary the authority to expedite the removal, demotion or suspension of VA employees based on performance or misconduct. It also improves protections for employees who are committed to serving our veterans. Passing this legislation is an excellent step in the right direction and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that our veterans have access to the vital care that they have earned.”

Background

  • On May 25, Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced S. 1266 the Enhancing Veteran Care Act, which authorizes VISN directors to contract with an outside entity to conduct investigations of their VA medical facilities.
  • On Feb. 23, 2016, Inhofe announced on the Senate floor that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) had committed in writing to conduct investigations of Oklahoma’s VA hospitals in coordination with an outside entity, a condition made by Inhofe prior to allowing confirmation of the VA Inspector General nominee.
  • On Feb. 12, 2016 Inhofe and Lankford introduced S. 2554, the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act.
  • On Dec. 23, 2015, Inhofe contacted VISN 19 Network Director Ralph Gigliotti and requested his personal assistance in ensuring proper care is provided to the five veterans identified in the Dec. 23, 2015, USA Today article. Inhofe continues to work with the VA on care for these veterans to include addressing existing medical issues and any future medical issues.
  • On Nov. 30, 2015, VISN 19 sent two teams to investigate operations at the Muskogee VA center, one that looked at quality of care and the other that looked at management of the facility. Their visits resulted in the immediate shut down of intermediate surgeries at the Muskogee facility due to issues that were discovered. It also prompted the removal of the facility’s Chief of Staff on Feb. 9, who was temporarily reassigned until the completion of VA’s review of VISN 19’s report. It also resulted in new VA Directors in the Muskogee and Oklahoma City VA facilities.