Vote Explanation for H.R. 1994 — VA Accountability Act

The VA has made significant progress in recent years reducing the backlog of pending veterans’ benefits claims. However, the backlog of appeals continues to grow. Over the course of 80 years, Congress and the VA have created an inefficient and overly complicated process for handling these appeals. The result is staggering — and sad. Currently 450,000 appeals are stuck in the backlog, and veterans are waiting an average of three years to have their appeal heard. Our veterans deserve better.

That’s why I voted for H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016. This bill would overhaul the appeals process by giving veterans new options to have their appeal heard quickly. If this bill becomes law, veterans would have the option of having their appeals decided in a VA regional office or the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, for example.

This bill also gives the VA Secretary the ability to hold bad actors at the VA accountable. In addition to allowing the Secretary to remove VA employees for misconduct and restricting bonuses for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers, the bill would also allow the Secretary to reduce the pensions of senior level employees who are convicted of a felony that influenced their job.

This bill is not perfect, and it needs to be improved to strengthen Constitutional due process protections for federal employees. That being said, this is a strong bill that would make significant improvements in the lives of our veterans. That’s why I voted yes.