Rep. Phill Roe, R-Tenn., wants to make it easier to fire VA employees who aren’t performing. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
A House committee approved legislation to hasten the disciplinary process at the Veterans Affairs Department, despite significant pushback from Democrats who said the measure unfairly targeted rank-and-file employees.
The markup represented the latest effort from Republicans to increase accountability at VA. They’ve tried to expedite firings and suspensions at the department since an initial reform effort in 2014 ran into legal trouble. Democrats insisted they believe in the need to rid VA of problem employees, but said the Republican plan would not properly address the root of the issue.
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who authored the VA Accountability First Act and chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, kicked off the markup addressing the criticisms he saw coming. The measure was not an “attack on workers’ rights,” but instead an effort to grant VA Secretary David Shulkin’s request to dismiss employees when he “comes across the very few who are bad.” Roe said he did not buy the argument that the bill would negatively impact recruiting and retention, as bad employees hurt the morale of the rest of the workforce. Noting a common refrain from detractors of firing reform, Roe said the measure would not hurt the large number of veterans who work at the department.