Four Democratic Senators Request IG Review of VA Accountability Act Implementation

Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have sent a letter to the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs, asking that the IG look into how the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act has been implemented, according to an exclusive written by Nicole Ogrysko of Federal News Radio.

“We have had numerous VA employees and their representatives contact our offices about the law’s implementation, indicating that the authorities provided by the law are being used in an inconsistent and inappropriate manner,” the senators wrote in their letter to the IG. “Unfortunately, VA still has not been able to provide us with data that would alleviate our concerns or demonstrate in any way that application of these authorities has been consistent, fair and appropriate.”

According to Ogrysko, the senators previously “had described instances where managers attempted to remove employees for missing a deadline or moving slowly after a workplace injury.”

That initial round of congressional concern was in February, after which the acting VA secretary “described and clarified the department’s performance management guidance.”

“This statutory requirement does not eliminate the expectation that supervisors will communicate with an employee about performance expectations and concerns about the employee’s performances,” O’Rourke wrote in a letter obtained and published by Federal News Radio.

Ogrysko notes that the VA has also implemented new technology in its efforts to increase transparency and address congressional reporting requirements, noting that the agency is “now using HR SMART to track employee suspensions, demotions and removals.” Unfortunately, “the system can’t yet track admonishments or reprimands,” according to the VA.

The senators also express frustration that data requested in February has not yet been produced, with the VA citing the number of man hours necessary to compile the data as a slowing factor.

Marnee Banks, Senator Tester’s spokesperson, said, “If [the department] had started procuring data when the bill was signed into law, it likely would have been done months ago. The lack of transparency from the VA on this front is troubling, and the committee is working in a bipartisan manner to hold the VA accountable to implement the bill as Congress intended.”

Posted in From the Hill

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