President Trump kept another 2016 campaign promise when he signed into law the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act on Friday, reports Fox News. The law, passed by Congress in early June, is designed to protect whistleblowers and facilitate the suspension, demotion, and termination of employees that exhibit misconduct or poor performance. This is an important step in addressing problems that have plagued the Department of Veterans Affairs for years.
In simplest terms, Trump is making it easier for the government to say “You’re fired!” to employees that contribute to problems that led to the 2014 Veterans Affairs scandal, in which 40 veterans died waiting for care at a Phoenix facility, according to CNN. This tragedy was enabled by VA managers who put 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans on a secret waiting list to conceal the fact that hospitals were not providing timely care, defined as occurring within 14 to 30 days of a request, to veterans who needed it. Some veterans waited more than a year to see a doctor, while others died waiting for care that never came.
This scandal, which occurred under President Barack Obama, shed light on the nationwide problem of veterans not having access to timely urgent healthcare, a problem that Donald Trump promised to fix on the 2016 campaign trail. Thanks to this new VA reform bill, the legal and administrative issues that led to these fatal problems may soon be resolved.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act
According to Fox News, this new law helps veterans in two ways. First, it protects whistleblowers who speak up about unethical behavior at the VA by making it illegal to fire an employee who has an open complaint against the Veterans Affairs Department. Secondly, it streamlines and facilitates the process of disciplinary action against Veterans Affairs employees who are not fulfilling their obligations to provide timely and appropriate care to our nation’s veterans. The new law also gives the Veterans Affairs Secretary the ability to appoint new medical directors at VA hospitals. In a speech given to commemorate the signing of this legislation, President Trump stated:
“This is one of the largest reforms to the VA in its history. It’s a reform that I campaigned on and now I am thrilled to be able to sign that promise into law. VA accountability is essential to making sure that our veterans are treated with the respect they have so richly earned through their blood, sweat, and tears.”
President Trump’s decision to sign this bill into law is just the latest in a serious of actions the president has taken to protect veterans. In his speech, Trump stated that a website has been created that displays the wait times at every VA hospital, a tool that may work in conjunction with the new law to help veterans receive timely care.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2017
Other Steps Taken By President Trump To Help Veterans
According to the White House website, President Trump has added an Office of Accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and signed the Veterans Choice Improvement Act, which enables veterans to visit the doctor of their choice. In his speech, President Trump stated that this act has already enabled veterans to receive almost double the number of approvals to see the doctor of their choice. Trump has also taken action to facilitate the transition of medical records between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, another step towards ensuring timely and accurate care to those who have served our country.
It is unknown what the effects of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will be until the changes are implemented. It is promising, however, that other veteran protection laws signed by President Trump, such as the Veterans Choice Improvement Act, have improved the experience of veterans seeking medical care provided by the VA.
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