Bay Ridge

Donovan says VA bill protects whistleblowers

June 15, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 will also help veterans get better health care, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan predicted. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas
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A bill approved by the House of Representatives to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will lead to improved healthcare for military veterans, a Brooklyn lawmaker predicted.

U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan voted in favor of the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, a bill that was passed by the House on June 13. The Senate had earlier passed the legislation. The bill has been sent to President Donald Trump for his signature.

“This legislation institutes necessary reforms to help fix longstanding accountability problems that plague the VA to ensure veterans receive the quality care they earned, and I look forward to seeing this bill swiftly signed into law,” Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) said in a statement.

The legislation establishes a series of reforms designed to increase accountability within the agency by streamlining the process to remove, demote, or suspend VA employees for poor performance or misconduct.

The bill provides the VA secretary with the authority to hold employees who are not fulfilling their duties accountable for their actions, including the ability for the secretary to recoup bonuses from employees who have acted improperly.

In addition, the legislation provides protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that workers who take risks to expose wrongdoing within the VA are safe from retaliation, Donovan said.

“No employee should be immune from workplace consequences simply because they are a government employee. In fact, those who take care of our veterans, who sacrificed to protect our way of life, should be held to an even higher standard,” Donovan said. 

Steps had to be taken to overhaul the VA, according to Donovan, who said that in recent years, the VA was hampered by a lack of effective accountability rules that prevented the department from dismissing a worker who had engaged in armed robbery, discipline a nurse who participated in surgery while intoxicated, or crackdown on employees who continually mismanaged construction projects. 

The bill was endorsed by several veterans groups, including the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Veterans and Military Officers Association of America. 

In April, Donovan voted to extend the Veterans Choice Program to help ensure veterans enjoy greater access to timely medical care.

Donovan has also held roundtable meetings with military veterans in his congressional district to discuss solutions to problems the veterans have faced. 

At one roundtable, held at a Knights of Columbus hall in Dyker Heights on Nov. 1, the discussion centered on problems associated with the VA, including long waits to receive care at VA hospitals and delays in paperwork to obtain benefits.

The participants told Donovan about the struggles faced by veterans such as high rates of unemployment and homelessness. 

The participants included representatives from the United Veterans of Kings County, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Jewish War Veterans, Catholic War Veterans, Marine Corps League, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion. 

Dyker Heights and its neighboring community, Bay Ridge, have a strong connection to military veterans. The U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton is located in Bay Ridge and provides services to tens of thousands of veterans. The fort is the only active military post located within New York City.

 


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