Roe Introduces the Veterans’ Affairs Employee Accountability Act
Legislation withholds bonus if VA employee is in violation of civil law
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. (TN-01) introduced H.R. 4481, the Veterans’ Affairs Employee Accountability Act (VAEA), which ensures that no employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) who knowingly violates civil law receives a bonus. Roe made the following statement regarding H.R. 4481:
“Government employees, specifically those who serve our veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs, need to be held accountable for their actions, and that includes abiding by the law. Currently, there are loopholes in the Veterans Affairs Acquisition Regulation that allow employees who are in violation of civil law to receive a bonus.
“That is why I introduced the Veterans’ Affairs Employee Accountability Act. My bill would fix the loopholes and hold VA employees accountable for their actions by restricting any bonus from the employee in violation of civil law. Financial incentives are a valuable tool to retain employees, but they shouldn’t be given to VA employees who break the law.”
Hearings at the Veterans’ Affairs Committee have uncovered a serious problem with the VA’s contracting procedures. Employees that knowingly violate civil contracts are not only avoiding punishment, some of them are actually receiving annual bonuses.
For example, several instances were identified where VA employees went outside the Department’s Prime Contract to purchase certain pharmaceuticals, which by the VA’s own admission exceeded these officials’ authority and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. VA officials downplayed the illegality of these actions, which were in direct violation of the Federal Authorization Regulation (FAR), by describing them as “improper” or “mistakes.” Rather than penalizing or reprimanding these employees, it appears VA senior officials paid these employees some form of a bonus, further highlighting the lack of internal contracting oversight at the VA.
The VAEA Act directs Secretary Shinseki to ensure that if an employee at the VA knowingly breaks civil law covered by the Federal Acquisition Regulation, that employee cannot receive a bonus for or during that year. The term bonus is defined as a: retention incentive, retention incentive payment, retention incentive aware or any other reward requiring approval from any office within the VA which approves these bonuses.