Tester Introduces Bill to Bolster Transparency, Accountability of VA

Senator's VA CLEAR Act to Increase Oversight of VA Budget and Private Contractors, Increase Authority of Inspector General

(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member Jon Tester today introduced legislation to dramatically increase transparency at the VA and bolster efforts to hold it more accountable to veterans and taxpayers.

Tester introduced the VA Contract, Leadership and Ensuring Accountability and Reform (CLEAR) Act to shine more light on the VA’s bookkeeping and provide additional accountability measures for the private companies that contract with the VA to provide care or services to veterans. Tester’s legislation would also require an independent review of the VA’s finances and provide the VA Inspector General’s office with additional authority to effectively carry out its independent oversight responsibilities.

“The VA has a history of mismanaging its budget and coming to Congress to bail them out. This is on top of awarding massive contracts to private companies with little or no ability to hold them accountable,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “My VA CLEAR Act will shed more light on the bookkeeping at the VA and provide additional tools for Congress and the Inspector General to hold contractors and the VA accountable for the services they provide to veterans.”

Tester’s VA CLEAR Act includes provisions from his VA Financial Accountability Act to bring in an independent third party to review the VA’s financial processes and recommend improvements. It would also prohibit the VA from making emergency or supplemental funding requests to Congress less than 45 days before the delivery of care or benefits to veterans is impacted. This measure would provide more protection to veterans who may otherwise be impacted by the VA’s inability to appropriately anticipate its funding needs.

Tester’s VA CLEAR Act would also bolster accountability measures at the VA by requiring any contracts with private companies to include, at a minimum, measurable metrics for the quality of services provided to veterans. It would also require the VA to provide more regular updates to Congress on whether contactors are meetings their contractual obligations, and would allow the VA to charge a fee to contractors who don’t meet basic quality standards. These provisions originated from Tester’s VA PACT Act.

Tester’s VA CLEAR Act also includes the following provisions:
• Requires the VA to provide a justification and payment plan for contracts over $2 billion.
• Allows the VA Inspector General, the independent watchdog tasked with investigating misconduct and waste of taxpayer dollars at the VA, to subpoena any testimony and information necessary in the course of its investigations, including from former VA employees.
• Requires the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection to adopt stronger tracking and accountability measures, like centralized tracking of medical professionals reported to state licensing boards or information about ongoing investigations of employees.

Tester’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

More information on Tester’s VA CLEAR Act can be found online HERE.