Barack Obama’s example of thumbing his nose at the constitutional process whereby laws are written has caught on. On Friday, the Department of Veterans Affairs notified Congress that it no longer intends to enforce a law passed in the wake of the 2014 wait-time scandal that streamlined the process of firing bad employees.
According to Stars and Stripes, the law, known as Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, reduces the appeals process for fired employees to just three weeks, rather than dragging on for months, as was previously the case.
The VA has struggled to fire or reprimand a series of executives charged with misconduct since the scandal. Its announcement Friday left lawmakers frustrated and scrambling for new reform legislation on employee firings.
“It is outrageous and unconscionable that the VA is choosing to blatantly ignore all of the accountability reforms set in place by the Veterans Choice Act,” Sen. Johnny Isakson , R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a released statement.
Prior to the the law’s passage, VA employees who had been terminated enjoyed the same option as other federal employees, who can appeal their termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The process typically takes many months to play out. In the meantime, employees continue to draw paychecks and enjoy other benefits of the job.
Pressure built to fire executives – and do it more quickly — after a joint VA-White House investigation during the summer of 2014 found a “corrosive culture” and widespread poor management at veteran hospitals. Congress passed a dramatically scaled-back appeals process with an administrative judge making a final decision within 21 days and no appeal options.
In response to the announcement, Isakson and 43 Senate cosponsors have proposed a new reform bill that puts all employee firings in the hands of VA Secretary Bob McDonald and eliminates the Merit System Protection Board from the equation.