Tester’s Bipartisan Bill to Increase Accountability and Oversight at VA Gains Traction in Committee
At hearing, VA officials highlight support for the Senator’s LEAD Act
During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing yesterday on accountability and transparency at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Chairman Jon Tester highlighted his bipartisan Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Development (LEAD) Act of 2023 to improve the Department’s ability to identify wrongdoing and hold leadership and employees accountable.
“Accountability and transparency must be cornerstones of fulfilling VA’s mission to provide high-quality care and benefits to veterans,” said Tester. “…The fact is, even one case of fraud, malicious patient harm, or abuse of power at VA is one too many. And the biggest threat to bad actors is an informed and empowered workforce that knows its rights and the consequences of misconduct.”
Tester cited that according to VA’s 2023 all-employee survey, one in four employees do not feel comfortable disclosing a suspected violation of law, regulation, or rule without fear of reprisal.
The Chairman continued: “VA needs to encourage reporting of wrongdoing by providing clear information about where to voice concerns while also strengthening protections for whistleblowers. And it needs timely, thorough disciplinary procedures that follow due process and hold up in court. That’s why I introduced the LEAD Act.”
During the hearing, VA officials underscored their support for the LEAD Act to improve accountability and transparency at VA, especially its provisions that will ensure VA employees have training on and knowledge of the processes to take action against employee misconduct that withstands legal review.
“Accountability starts long before we get to the point where we’re proposing actions,” said VA’s Office of General Counsel Senior Attorney-Advisor for Accountability Aaron Robison. “What we like about the LEAD Act is being able to focus our attention on that front-end process where we’re focusing on trying to make investigations more efficient, more thorough and devoting our resources to that.”
When asked if she believed the LEAD Act would improve VA’s processes to hold individuals responsible for misconduct, including fraud, patient safety, and retaliatory actions against whistleblowers, VA’s Chief Human Capital Officer Tracey Therit responded: “I do. The LEAD Act gives us great opportunities to improve our processes, our procedures, our data collection…improve our surveys, improve our training, and do some restructuring with the Veterans Health Administration to strengthen the oversight of our field.”
Continuing his push to improve accountability and transparency at VA on behalf of veterans nationwide and in Montana, Tester introduced the bipartisan Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Development (LEAD) Act of 2023 to improve the Department’s ability to identify wrongdoing and hold leadership and employees accountable. Thiscomprehensive legislation would reform VA’s oversight and accountability processes and tools to improve the Department’s ability to take action against VA leaders and employees who have engaged in misconduct while also improving VA’s oversight of its health care services and facilities nationwide.