News Releases

Monday, May 15, 2017

Isakson Highlights Broad Support for Accountability Bill from Key Stakeholders

Legislation supported by VA, House VA committee leaders, Veterans Service Organizations, government accountability groups

MARIETTA, Ga. – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, today highlighted broad support for the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that would reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by allowing the secretary to dismiss bad employees and ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.

The bill was introduced on Thursday, May 11, by Isakson along with U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. Additional cosponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., John McCain, R-Ariz., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will consider the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act during a legislative hearing scheduled for Wednesday, May 17.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is supported by VA Secretary David Shulkin as well as by leadership of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This legislation has also won the support of several veterans groups that represent millions of veterans in the United States and key government accountability groups.

Supportive statements are included below:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
“I applaud Chairman Isakson, Senator Rubio and Ranking Member Tester for introducing S. 1094, the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, among other co-sponsors.  Together with similar House-passed legislation sponsored by House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Phil Roe, I have increasing confidence Congress will provide me and future secretaries the authority we need to hold our employees accountable and protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This bill is great news for veterans and for the hardworking employees at VA." – Dr. David Shulkin, VA secretary

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee
“I commend Senators Marco Rubio, Johnny Isakson and Jon Tester for reaching a bipartisan agreement on accountability legislation. I’m also pleased much of my bill, the VA Accountability First Act of 2017, is included in the Senate bill, and I hope the Senate will act swiftly to give Secretary Shulkin the tools he’s made it clear he needs to bring accountability to VA. I know that the vast majority of the men and women who work at VA take their duty to serve veterans seriously, but bad actors have tarnished the reputation of good employees for far too long. Our veterans deserve to know that bad actors within the department will be held accountable, and I look forward to supporting this bipartisan bill in the House.” - Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee

“We applaud our colleagues in the Senate for their bipartisan effort to give the VA Secretary the tools they need to hold bad employees accountable and for doing so in a way that maintains constitutionally mandated workplace protections that help shield good employees and whistleblowers from retaliation. I look forward to working together with members in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and get this critically important legislation signed into law.” - Rep. Tim Walz, ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee

The American Legion
“The American Legion applauds this bipartisan effort to provide Secretary Shulkin additional tools to increase accountability and address poor performance within the Department of Veterans Affairs. The media's exposure of the 2014 Phoenix VA Medical Center wait-time scandal revealed that hundreds of veterans suffered and died while awaiting treatment. Incompetent and uncaring employees throughout the VA system utterly failed to execute their fiduciary responsibilities and violated the Hippocratic Oath. Furthermore, they failed to uphold the American peoples' promise to care for our veterans.” - Charles E. Schmidt, American Legion National Commander

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA)
"Paralyzed Veterans of America has long called for measures that bring greater accountability and protects those employees who have the courage to call out fraud, waste, and abuse in the Department of Veterans Affairs. We firmly believe that the culture of a company, organization, or federal agency is shaped by the worst behaviors its leader is willing to tolerate. The VA Accountability & Whistleblower Protection Act is the first major step toward reshaping behavior in VA by tolerating bad behavior and poor performance no more. Our veterans deserve it; and so do the hardworking public servants of VA who are tired of being overshadowed by the performance of substandard managers and employees." - Sherman Gillums, PVA Executive Director

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
“Accountability must be a two-way street. The VFW salutes VA Committee Chairmen Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. Phil Roe, and their ranking members, Sen. Jon Tester and Tim Walz, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio for introducing a bipartisan, bicameral, and comprehensive accountability bill. The VFW wants Secretary Shulkin to have the authority to manage his people in a manner expected of all senior executives, public or private. The VFW wants the secretary to weed out the nonperformers, and especially the criminals, regardless of whether the crime was committed on or off-duty. And the VFW wants this bill passed, because maintaining the status quo doesn’t work for those who have borne the battle.” - Brian Duffy, National Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.

Reserve Officers Association (ROA)
“ROA applauds the strengthening of accountability and whistleblower security throughout the federal government, and especially at VA” - Jeff Phillips, ROA Executive Director

Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH)
"MOPH believes it is absolutely critical that VA has the tools to enforce employee accountability and protect whistleblowers. We support this important legislation and thank Senators Rubio, Isakson and Tester for bringing it forward." -Hershel Gober, MOPH National Commander

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
"Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America applauds the leadership and diligence of Senators Rubio, Isakson and Tester toward crafting this new bill to enable the removal of bad-acting employees at the VA. Nearly three years ago, the scandal in Phoenix alerted the country to the outrageous state of the VA health care system. IAVA and our members have fought since that time to give the VA Secretary the tools needed to address workforce accountability and save veterans' lives. We encourage Senate and House leaders to quickly work together to pass the strongest VA accountability measure that can be signed into law." - Tom Porter, IAVA Legislative Director

American Veterans (AMVETS)
“AMVETS applauds the introduction of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. It is imperative that VA has improved authority to remove employees who are working against the mission of serving veterans. AMVETS is equally pleased with the whistleblower protections that would be put in place and monitored by the establishment of an Office on Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. We have long said that accountability is not a partisan issue, and are encouraged by the early bipartisan support of this important piece of legislation.” - Joe Chenelly, AMVETS National Executive Director

Got Your 6
"The veteran community has been pushing for three years now to adequately address the need for greater accountability at the VA while also maintaining a workplace that is able to attract and retain high quality professionals. Got Your 6 strives to be a collaborative partner of the VA, and given the bipartisan nature of this legislation, Got Your 6 strongly supports this approach to provide VA leadership's more efficient workforce management options." - Bill Rausch, Got Your 6 Executive Director

Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
“MOAA strongly supports Secretary Shulkin having the necessary authorities and tools to effectively manage the VA workforce and hold employees accountable. The secretary needs these additional resources to take swift and appropriate action against those few bad actors within the agency so he can restore the trust veterans should have in their VA.” - Lieutenant General Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret.), President of the Military Officers Association of America

Concerned Veterans for America (CVA)
“After years of scandal, there is still hardly any accountability within the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will give Secretary Shulkin the authority he needs to hold department employees responsible for their actions – something he has repeatedly said is necessary in order for him to fix the toxic culture there. If passed into law, this bill will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to terminate, demote, or suspend employees who engage in misconduct or perform poorly. Taken together, these new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing. This is not a partisan issue, this is not a partisan bill, and there is absolutely no excuse for Congress not to expedite moving this bill forward. Veterans across the country are watching and demanding action. We strongly urge the Senate to take up the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 immediately.” - Dan Caldwell, Concerned Veterans for America Policy Director

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
“DAV supports enactment of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. I applaud the bipartisan effort to ensure greater accountability and strengthened whistleblower protections within VA. We thank Senators Rubio, Tester and Isakson for working with DAV to ensure VA is able to enforce accountability standards to attract, hire and retain the brightest and best employees our nation has to offer to care for ill and injured veterans.” - Garry Augustine, DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA)
“Vietnam Veterans of America commends Sen. Johnny Isakson, chair, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, for his leadership in introducing the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation, when enacted, will establish in law the newly created Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs. We are especially pleased to see improved protections for whistleblowers. Those brave men and women who have stepped forward in defense of our veterans should never, ever have been victimized for telling the truth. This legislation will protect this new office within the VA will go a long way toward ensuring that those who have stood up in defense of the Constitution receive the care and respect they have earned.” - John Rowan, VVA National President

Project on Government Oversight
“I am proud to support your VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. This bill, if enacted, will significantly improve the landscape for whistleblowers within the VA. I thank you for your leadership and dedication to not only improving whistleblower protections at the VA but to making sure the agency has the tools and resources to implement those protections in a meaningful way.” - Danielle Brian, Project on Government Oversight Executive Director

Office of Special Counsel
“We support the Committee’s decision to establish the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The Committee’s legislation takes additional, necessary steps to promote accountability, protect whistleblowers, and improve care at the VA. Additionally, we support the Committee’s decision to include whistleblower protection criteria in the performance plans of all VA supervisors and managers. This step will create additional incentives for supervisors to respond constructively to employees’ concerns, helping to improve the culture at the VA.” - Carolyn Lerner, Office of Special Counsel 

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The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 115th Congress. Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.