Restoring veterans’ trust and mending gaps between the department’s headquarters and its employees in the field are top priorities for Tom Bowman, the president’s nominee to be the deputy VA secretary.
Senators have two very different proposals to redesign the Veterans Choice Program. Both pieces of legislation represent very different ideologies and sides of a debate that Congress, the Veterans Affairs Department, veterans service organizations and federal employee groups have been having for the past three years.
A small group of senators says the Veterans Health Administration should have its own chief information officer, who would report to the department’s undersecretary for health and would oversee all management and procurement decisions related to the health administration’s IT systems. It’s one of a few specific recommendations from the VA Commission on Care that are beginning to appear in new pieces of legislation.
The Veterans Affairs Department once again needs congressional authority to transfer funds from one account to another to keep the Veterans Choice Program running for the rest of fiscal 2017. VA Secretary David Shulkin says the issue emphasizes the need to redesign the program, yet Congress has its concerns about the viability of Choice in the near and long term future.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin offered the first glimpse of his plan to redesign the current Veterans Choice Program. He’s calling it the Veterans’ Coordinated Access Rewarding Experience (CARE) Program, and under the new initiative, veterans would no longer access community providers based on a set of arbitrary, administrative rules.
Both the Veterans Affairs and Justice departments believe they can easily resolve some concerns with the constitutionality of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. DoJ is concerned, however, that VA will run into the same issues that ultimately rendered a controversial provision on firing senior executives unconstitutional.
The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which senators introduced last week, may have more momentum than previous bills. It now has 12 co-sponsors, including four Democrats and VA Secretary David Shulkin himself. Yet some federal employee groups and experts question whether the new bill has the teeth to truly tackle long entrenched cultural problems at the department.
Members of the Senate have reached a long awaited agreement on new accountability procedures for senior executives and employees within the Veterans Affairs Department. A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act Thursday morning. It would change current disciplinary appeals rights for both SES and rank-and-file employees.
The Government Accountability Office is questioning whether the right people, skills and leadership were devoted to the Veterans Affairs Department’s past efforts to remove VA healthcare from the High-Risk List. But current VA leadership insisted it’s paying attention and asked for patience as it continues to transform the department.
Since Michael Missal took over as inspector general at the Veterans Affairs Department about a year ago, his office has turned up some improvements, some deteriorations and the odd surprise.
An extension and then redesign of the Veterans Choice Program, along with new employee accountability legislation, are top priorities for new Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. He said he’s working with Congress on new legislation to support those initiatives.
David Shulkin, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Veterans Affairs Department, earned high praise from the Senate committee during his nomination hearing. Changing the department’s current Veterans Choice Program and crafting new accountability and disciplinary procedures for VA employees were common topics.
The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee took on the recommendations from the VA Commission on Care’s recent report on veterans health care.
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said the Veterans First Act, which the department itself is actively supporting, has hit a few roadblocks. He hasn’t yet been able to bring the omnibus to a vote in the full Senate but said he is optimistic Congress will pass new veterans legislation this year.
A recent decision from the Justice Department is prompting the VA to stop using the authority it has under current legislation to fire senior executives more quickly. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said the news comes after an inquiry over whether the VA planned to make any policy changes after the DOJ decision, which ultimately ruled that a key provision in the VA Choice Act is unconstitutional.