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House passes bill to speed up VA employee firings

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The House passed legislation on Wednesday to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire or demote employees for poor performance.

The bill passed 256-170 despite a veto threat from the White House, which is concerned that it would limit federal employees’ due process rights.

The legislation limits the amount of time VA employees have to appeal disciplinary actions to within seven days of their removal. It would also prohibit the VA from placing any employee on paid administrative leave for more than 14 days.

{mosads}Bonuses paid to VA employees would be limited to $300 million annually through 2018, and $360 million from 2019 through 2024.

“We have seen how the presence of poor performance and misconduct ranging from unethical practices to outright criminal behavior can spread like a cancer throughout the workforce,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

The Obama administration said that curtailing employees’ ability to appeal a decision, along with another provision in the bill that requires rotation of VA senior executives every five years, would deter talent from the agency. 

“While VA supports authority permitting efficient removal of employees who have engaged in misconduct, this bill will have unintended consequences,” the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy.

In the aftermath of reports showing excessive wait times for medical care, Congress last year passed legislation that allows veterans to seek private care outside of VA facilities and provides funding for the VA to hire more doctors. But many lawmakers say that the VA has not implemented the reforms quickly enough.

Also Wednesday, the House passed a three-month highway funding patch that includes a provision to provide $3.4 billion to fill a gap in the VA budget in order to avoid a shutdown of agency-affiliated hospitals and clinics.

Earlier this week, the House passed bills to ensure a cost-of-living adjustment for veterans’ disability benefits and to urge the VA to define military sexual assault as a service-connected cause of mental health disorders so victims can receive disability benefits.

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