WASHINGTON May 20 The U.S. House of
Representatives will vote this week on a bill that will make it
easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire or demote
senior executives, officials said Tuesday, following allegations
veterans' healthcare delays have led to preventable deaths.
The bill addressing the "mess at the Veterans
administration" will "try and provide the tools to the
administration to hold senior managers accountable," House
Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican, told reporters.
"The American people are frustrated, especially when those
who have served our country in uniform have been treated the way
they have and God forbid, who have perished because of the mess
at the VA," Cantor said at a news conference.
Eric Shinseki, secretary of the department, has faced calls
for his resignation over the allegations, but so far President
Barack Obama has resisted the demands and assigned a top White
House aide to help the department deal with the problem.
The House bill would give Shinseki "greater authority to
fire employees ... due to poor performance in the same manner a
member of Congress can remove a member of their staff,"
according to a summary on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee
The department's "widespread and systemic lack of
accountability for senior executives is exacerbating all of its
most pressing problems," the website said, explaining the need
for the bill.
It said department senior executives who had presided over
recent negligence have been more likely to receive a bonus than
punishment. The legislation, introduced in February, is
sponsored by Representative Jeff Miller, Republican chairman of
the Veterans Affairs Committee, and has over 100 co-sponsors,
including some Democrats.
It is expected to be considered on the House floor Thursday.
The VA has put three senior officials in Phoenix on
administrative leave amid accusations that VA medical facilities
there covered up long wait times for patients, including 40 who
died while awaiting care.
Allegations have been made about similar cover-up schemes at
VA medical facilities in at least seven other cities.
The Senior Executives Association, which advocates for
career federal executives, has warned Miller's bill could
politicize the department's work force by making it easier to
fire executives without the due process normally accorded to
members of the career civil service.
The White House said Monday that Obama will speak out soon
about the reports of healthcare delays at the agency, which runs
the largest U.S. healthcare group, overseeing some 1,700
hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other facilities.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bernadette Baum)