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HOUSE APPROVES BILL TO SCALE BACK VA WORKFORCE DUE PROCESS PROTECTIONS

Legislation approved in the House last week would put the entire workforce at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on the same footing as VA Senior Executives who saw their workforce protections and due process rights shrunk last year following the agency waitlist scandal.

The VA Accountability Act of 2015 (H.R. 1994) passed the House on a largely party-line vote of 256-170, with 16 Democrats voting in favor of the bill.

In addition to making it more easy for the VA Secretary to fire or demote agency employees, the bill also extends the probationary period for new VA employees, including SES, forces distributions of SES performance ratings to allow no more than 10% to receive Outstanding and no more than 20% to receive Exceeds Fully Successful, calls for rotating all VA SES every 5 years to new positions and new programs, reduces benefits of SES convicted of certain crimes, creates a new whistleblower complaint system and obligations for managers, limits the use of administrative leave, limits bonuses for agency employees, and directs GAO to perform a study of time and space used for labor organizational activity at the agency.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the Senior Executives Association (SEA) were among the employee groups who led the unsuccessful fight against the legislation.

The White House issued a veto threat on the bill.

House Republicans, led by Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) used quotes from the President last year when he approved the bill pertaining to VA SES to goad yes votes for his legislation. No veto threat was issued last year when the rights of VA SES were diminished.

"We are amazed that this bill, which mirrors last year's Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, is only now causing alarm within the Administration," said SEA President Carol Bonosaro in a statement. "In fact, the 2014 Act is a more draconian version of H.R. 1994, yet the Administration had no issue then with whether the new legal removal authority and process affected the due process rights of career Senior Executives, who are not in any bargaining unit and therefore are not represented by unions."

The White House veto threat may come into play later this congressional session when the bill moves to the Senate. Companion legislation (S. 1082) sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has already been approved by the Senate VA Committee.

Posted in From the Hill

Tags: Congress, Senate, legislation,

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