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Bill would let VA secretary fire execs, revamp hiring authority

By ANDY MEDICI
Federal Times
Jun. 2, 2014 - 12:24PM

The Veterans Affairs Department secretary would be able to fire senior executives and the agency would receive new hiring authorities and emergency funding under legislation announced June 1.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., said in a press release the Restoring Veterans Trust Act of 2014 would help fix scheduling issues at the VA and provide accountability so the recent reported incidents of falsified wait lists would not happen again.

“There must be a culture of honesty and accountability within the VA and people who have lied or manipulated data must be punished,” Sanders said.

Charges of improper care and falsified waiting lists have led to inspector general investigations across dozens of hospitals and the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. But the legislation will also help fix the underlying issues at the agency caused by the influx of veterans and the lack of funding by Congress, Sanders said.

The VA would be given the authority to hire new doctors, nurses and other providers in an expedited manner to fill gaps in service and would receive additional funding to hire those employees as well as work on construction projects and leases to expand access to care.

“The simple truth is that with 2 million more veterans coming into the system in recent years there are many facilities within the VA that do not have the doctors, nurses and other personnel that they need to provide quality care in a timely way,” Sanders said.

The legislation would also:

■ Allow the VA to enter into 27 major medical facility leases in 18 states and Puerto Rico to provide more expansive veterans coverage.

■ Upgrade the VA scheduling software package. The bill would require the agency to commence the agile development of a new software scheduling package that could be fully deployed by March 31, 2016.

■ Authorize a presidential commission to identify barriers to medical care at the VA and provide recommendations for enhancing coverage.