Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) June 14, 2016 – Lawmakers have announced the Veterans First Act in an effort to create a culture of accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and improve services for veterans.
The sweeping measure combines various legislation to make the VA more accountable by changing employment policies, making it easier to hire and fire senior executives, blocking bonuses for problem employees and allowing any VA employee accused of wrongdoing to be fired more quickly. The bill will also enhance whistleblower protection.
“This legislation will help change the current corrosive culture at the VA by demanding a higher level of accountability,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “Our veterans deserve much better than what they are currently getting. The VA must be prevented from future mismanagement and missteps that can harm the care of veterans.”
Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., announced the bipartisan bill. Isakson is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and Blumenthal is its ranking member. Although the proposal’s cost is estimated to be about $4 billion, the exact amount is unknown. However, Isakson said veterans benefits would not be cut nor money be taken from one veterans program to pay for another.
The reform package also proposes improving mental health care programs, enhancing caregiver support, expanding access to education benefits for veterans and their families, streamlining the Veterans Choice program and strengthening efforts to combat veteran homelessness. It also includes provisions to address a backlog of veteran disability claims and appeals.
The bill comes around two years after the VA hospital wait times scandal that forced agency leadership to resign. Lawmakers passed a major veterans omnibus afterward to allow incompetent senior executives to be fired more quickly. However, VA officials complained the new rules were ineffective in simplifying the process, sparking the current legislative efforts.
Isakson did not indicate when the proposal would be considered but expressed confidence it could become law later this year. “The bill seeks to address all the matters that are important to veterans. It has the power to be transformative for veterans’ health care and benefits and in delivering other services veterans need,” said Fausone.
Learn more at http://www.legalhelpforveterans.com
Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC
41700 West Six Mile Road, Suite 101
Northville, MI 48168
Toll Free Phone: 800.693.4800
- Why veterans are waiting to seek the health care they need
Long wait times in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system and having VA health insurance could be the reasons veterans are more likely to delay seeking necessary health care in comparison to the general population. Researchers Doohee Lee of Marshall University and Charles E. Begley of the University of Texas Health Science […]
- U.S. Senator Advocates Military Justice System Reform
Kristina Derro Veteran Advocate U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is leading the charge to end sex crimes in the military by giving a panel of seasoned, independent military trial lawyers the power to decide whether to prosecute sexual assault cases. Currently, this power is held by a small number of high-ranking military officials. Senator Gillibrand argues […]
- Horse therapy offers hope to veterans with PTSD
Service dogs are to known to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) manage their symptoms. Although less common, horse-assisted therapy has also emerged as a valuable way of supporting former service members as they transition from military to civilian life. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has partnered with PEACE Ranch in Traverse City, […]
- Is the VA doing enough to deal with the relocation scam?
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to suspend the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) acting chief Danny Pummill for 15 days without pay for permitting two employees to abuse the agency’s relocation process. Kimberly Graves and Diana Rubens manipulated the VBA’s hiring system for their own benefit. The inspector general’s September report claimed they […]