President Trump was expected to sign the bill into law this week and I am thankful for the leadership we've seen from the president and Secretary Shulkin as they've pushed tirelessly to bring wholesale reform to VA.
Marco Rubio, R-Fla., fulfills one of the president's campaign promises of dismissing employees at the VA "who let our veterans down", he said at Friday's bill signing ceremony, promising more VA reform in the future.
Even worse, VA said it would have taken up to a year to fire a nurse who assisted in a veteran's emergency surgery while under the influence of alcohol.
The new law also includes provisions to protect whistleblowers from retaliation inside the VA, and gives greater authority to the VA Secretary to fill top positions more quickly inside the VA health care system.
The VA scandal during the Obama administration engulfed the department, leading to the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki after CNN uncovered the existence of a secret scheduling list at the VA in Phoenix.
Concerned Veterans for America launched a massive grassroots effort to garner support for this bill, holding events across the country, making hundreds of thousands of phone calls to Congressional offices and launching online ads targeting all lawmakers to support it.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version - 180 days versus 45 days.
"Every veteran receiving care at VA facilities will now know that those entrusted with their care can be held responsible for their actions". By signing this important piece of legislation into law, we will be one step closer to reforming VA for once and for all. It will also provide improved protections for whistleblowers, who have proved to be invaluable in uncovering and addressing issues within the department.
"The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible", McCarthy said. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.