WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) joined Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and several of his Republican and Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor to speak in support of the Veterans First Act, bipartisan legislation that would give the VA the tools it needs to fire bad actors, prohibit bonuses for employees accused of wrongdoing, and institute protections for whistleblowers.
Tillis spoke out specifically against Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s recent announcement that the Department of Justice would no longer defend a provision of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014, neglecting its expedited removal authority to hold disgraced VA senior executives accountable.
The Obama Administration’s actions pave the way for the reinstatement of former VA executive Sharon Helman, who was fired for her role in the wait time cover-up scandal at the Phoenix VA and has plead guilty to failing to report $50,000 in gifts she received from a lobbyist seeking to conduct business with the VA.
The Veterans First Act is the only piece of pending accountability legislation that would withstand the constitutional challenge raised against current VA accountability law. Senator Tillis co-sponsored the bill, which was passed unanimously by the Senate VA Committee.
“We have to increase accountability at the VA,” said Senator Tillis. “Yet, we are now hearing Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in consultation with the President, has decided not to defend The Veterans Choice Act against a constitutional challenge, and the VA has decided to no longer use its expedited removal authority to hold senior executives accountable. We need to get back to what we tried to accomplish in The Veterans Choice Act, fire people who are not doing their job, fire people who are being unethical, and fire people who are not putting veterans at the top of their list.”
“The VA exists for providing the care that veterans deserve, and they should get it on a timely basis,” added Senator Tillis. “When there are no reasonable excuses for some of these wait times and we find it’s the people who are causing the problem, then those people should be held accountable and be terminated…It is time for us to pass The Veterans First Act and put veterans first, and I want to thank my colleagues who share this view.”