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VA bill introduced to expand authority

Sen. James Lankford (left) Sen. Jim Inhofe (right) (Source U.S. Legislature) Sen. James Lankford (left) Sen. Jim Inhofe (right) (Source U.S. Legislature)

WASHINGTON, DC (KSWO) –Oklahoma’s senators have introduced a bill to Congress that would expand the Department of Veterans Affair’s authority.

The Veterans Affairs Accountability Act, S.2554, was introduced by Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, Friday. The bill would allow directors of Veterans Integrated Services Network chapters to remove or demote any VA employee within their network if their performance warranted it. The bill would also allow the directors to contract with an outside entity to investigate their VA medical facilities.

“Men and women who served our nation in uniform deserve quality care. Unfortunately, the VA isn’t always meeting this expectation," Lankford said. “To ensure our veterans receive quality care, we must give our senior officials at the regional level the tools to hold people accountable. Most VA employees perform at the highest standards and I applaud them. But they deserve to work alongside others who share their same high standards. Oklahomans demand the Department of Veterans Affairs fix their problems now. This bill will help bring the VA in line with the expectations of our veterans and fellow Oklahomans.”

“Building upon the sound policy of the 2014 VA reform bill, our legislation grants VA leadership at the regional level the authority to fire any staff that are failing to provide adequate care to veterans,” Inhofe said. 

Inhofe says he’s worked with the VA facilities in Oklahoma to address their concerns. Inhofe went on to say he trusts the leadership at VISN 19 and said they conducted two investigations in the VA facility in Muskogee, which resulted in immediate corrections.

The Chief of Staff was temporarily removed from his position and surgeries were suspended. Inhofe says that process made it clear that VISN director were not empowered to address staffing concerns in their facilities.

The act builds off of a provision in the 2014 VA reform bill that authorizes the VA Secretary to remove any VA employee that holds a senior executive service position if their performance warrants removal.

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