Trump signs executive order creating new VA office

Trump signs executive order creating new VA office
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President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order to create the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, a new office within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The order, which Trump signed just ahead of his 100th day in office, creates a wide-reaching office that can weed out poorly performing employees and protect whistleblowers.

It will help provide veterans with the “healthcare they need and the healthcare they deserve,” Trump said at the signing.

He added that VA reform will be one of the “crown jewels” of his administration.

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"We are not going to let them down," Trump said. “[The order] makes it clear that we will never tolerate substandard care for our great veterans.”

Senate Veteran Affairs' Committee Chairman Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonTrump labor board nominees advance in Senate Trump to GOP senators: Cancel your recess Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security MORE (R-Ga.) praised the order as “making our veterans a top priority” and called it “a critical step toward helping [VA] Secretary [David] Shulkin hold bad actors at the VA accountable."

The order is similar to Isakson’s Veterans First Act proposed last year.

Shulkin told reporters Wednesday that the order will take accountability “up to the highest level” by establishing the office directly under his post.

The order also requires the VA to conduct an internal review to make sure current efforts are not duplicative.

Trump did not say what the new office would cost, but Shulkin said the price tag is likely to be substantial.

“I don’t have the exact figure for that … [but for a] department this size … it’s not a small amount. This is going to be substantial,” he said.

Trump’s executive order also appoints a special assistant to serve as executive director of the new office within 45 days of the signing of the document.

The VA has been criticized for years for failing to quickly fire problematic employees, and Trump repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail to increase accountability at the VA.

The House has already passed a measure that would reduce the time and process that workers facing negative personnel actions have to appeal, while the Senate is working on a separate bill.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonGOP frets over stalled agenda Conservatives target Congress, not Trump, after healthcare collapse Healthcare push leaves Republicans in disarray MORE (R-Wis.) also lauded Trump’s effort to “protect whistleblowers and ensure leadership has the authority to fire bad employees plaguing the VA.”

“Whistleblowers take great personal and professional risks to expose practices and procedures that could be harmful to our veterans,” Johnson said. "Those who have the courage to come forward shouldn’t be punished.”