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CONTACT 13: New legislation to address VA problems

Posted at 6:00 PM, Mar 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-13 22:44:18-04
Contact 13 is committed to holding our leaders accountable especially when it comes to our veterans.
We have new information about an attempt to fix problems with the VA Health Care System. 
It's called the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. That's what lawmakers hope will address some of the issues Contact 13 raised before the scandal about manipulated wait times at VA hospitals became a national story.  
Hundreds of veterans and several VA employees were so concerned about access to health care in Southern Nevada, they called on us to get the word out. 
Our investigation found a major backlog in appointments as the new VA hospital was understaffed. Hundreds of veterans were forced to travel out-of-state for simple procedures while at the same time, several administrators were paid thousands of dollars in bonuses. 
The new bill takes aim at civil service rules that make it difficult to fire VA employees for misconduct. It will allow the VA to take back employee bonuses and improve whistleblower protections. 
The House is expected to vote on the bill this week. 
All that sounds good, but Representative Dina Titus doesn't support the bill. Her office says she's all about accountability within the VA but cautions this is not the way to do it. 
Rep. Titus provided the following statement:
While I support accountability for all government employees, especial those who serve our nation's heroes, this legislation is a partisan attempt to strip away civil service protections for VA employees, many of whom are veterans themselves. It will also chill the likelihood of employees reporting on issues of waste and abuse within the agency for fear of retaliation. Rather than bringing a bipartisan compromise to the floor, Republicans are proposing unfair changes that will stifle the VA and do harm to our veterans.
We also reached out to the VA of Southern Nevada which provided this statement:
It would be inappropriate for the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System to comment locally on pending national-level legislation. Additionally, until a bill passes both the House and Senate and a final version is signed into law by the President, we won’t know what impacts any pending legislation will have at the national or local level.
However, we stand ready to support and if this legislation is passed and signed into law, we will assist the Department of Veterans Affairs with implementation and compliance at the local level as necessary.