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115th Congress    }                                 {     Rept. 115-34
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session      }                                 {           Part 1

======================================================================



 
                  VA ACCOUNTABILITY FIRST ACT OF 2017

                                _______
                                

 March 10, 2017.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Roe of Tennessee, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1259]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 1259) to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or 
misconduct, and for other purposes, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that 
the bill do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Purpose and Summary..............................................     2
Background and Need for Legislation..............................     2
Hearings.........................................................    11
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................    11
Committee Consideration..........................................    11
Committee Votes..................................................    12
Committee Correspondence.........................................    13
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................    15
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............    15
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................    15
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................    15
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Estimate........    15
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................    16
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................    16
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................    16
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................    16
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................    16
Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking................................    16
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................    16
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............    22
Dissenting Views.................................................    41

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 1259, the ``VA Accountability First Act of 2017,'' was 
introduced by Representative David P. Roe, M.D. of Tennessee, 
Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, on February 28, 
2017. This bill would provide the Secretary of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs (VA) with the authority to expeditiously 
remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee, including Senior 
Executive Service (SES) employees, based on performance or 
misconduct. It would also: provide improved protections for 
whistleblowers; allow the Secretary to reduce an employee's 
federal pension if he or she is convicted of a felony that 
influenced his or her job at VA; recoup a bonus provided to an 
employee who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to 
receiving the bonus; and allow the Secretary to recoup any 
relocation expenses that were authorized for a VA employee only 
through the employee's ill-gotten means, such as fraud, waste, 
or malfeasance.

                  Background and Need for Legislation


Section 1. Short title; Table of Contents

    This section provides the short title of the bill and the 
table of contents.

Section 2. References to Title 38, United States Code

    This Section provides that amendments and changes made to 
current law in this bill are to title 38, United States Code 
(U.S.C.), unless otherwise specified.

Section 3. Removal, demotion, and suspension of employees based on 
        performance or misconduct

    On April 9, 2014, at a full Committee oversight hearing on 
patient safety, then-Full Committee Chairman, Representative 
Jeff Miller of Florida, stated that, based on information 
received by the Committee, forty patients at the Phoenix VA 
Health Care System may have died while awaiting medical care. 
It was also revealed that the Committee had evidence from 
whistleblowers that the Phoenix VA Health Care System kept 
multiple sets of records to conceal prolonged wait times for 
appointments.
    The allegations of several whistleblowers, including Drs. 
Samuel Foote and Kathleen Mitchell from Phoenix, shed light on 
these issues and improper practices, which resulted in one of 
the largest scandals that VA has ever endured. Subsequently, on 
August 7, 2014, in part to address the problems related to the 
scandal exposed by the Committee, the Veterans Access, Choice 
and Accountability Act (``Choice Act'') was signed into law by 
President Barack Obama, which, among many other provisions, 
gave the Secretary the expedited authority to remove SES 
employees based on performance or misconduct.
    Since the passage of the Choice Act, the Committee has 
continued to uncover many instances of mismanagement or 
misconduct by VA employees. Some of these instances include: 
allegations of the manipulation of disability claims data at 
the Philadelphia Regional Benefit Office;\1\ the continued 
construction failures of a new medical center in Aurora, 
Colorado that is now many years and a billion dollars over 
budget;\2\ allegations of illegal use of government purchase 
cards resulting in the waste of billions of dollars 
annually;\3\ allegations of a VA employee remaining in her job 
after participating in an armed robbery;\4\ numerous instances 
of not properly disciplining employees involved with the theft 
of opioids or missing prescriptions;\5\ and many other examples 
of poor performance or misconduct. Throughout all of these 
incidents, it has become clear that VA often does not hold 
individuals appropriately accountable for their actions.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\After 10-month probe, report slams Phila. VA, Philly.com, April 
17, 2015 http://articles.philly.com/2015-04-17/news/61222505_1_allison-
hickey-veterans-affairs-benefits-office-diana-rubens.
    \2\Aurora VA official: No line-by-line account of where $1 billion 
went, The Denver Post, July 1, 2015 http://www.denverpost.com/news/
ci_28415366/va-deputy-secretary-making-eighth-trip-denver-hospital.
    \3\VA Put Vets at Risk by Spending Billions Unlawfully, 
Whistleblower Says, Government Executive, May 14, 2015 http://
www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/05/va-put-vets-risk-spending-billions-
unlawfully-whistleblower-says/112828/.
    \4\VA Worker Gets Job Back Despite Armed Robbery Charge, The Daily 
Caller News Foundation, March 22, 2015 http://dailycaller.com/2016/03/
22/va-worker-gets-job-back-despite-armed-robbery-charge/
    \5\AP: VA data show low rate of discipline for drug loss, theft, 
February 27, 2017 http://www.wfmj.com/story/34610739/ap-va-data-show-
low-rate-of-discipline-for-drug-loss-theft
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A recent study done by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO), found that, on average, it takes six months to a 
year, if not longer, to remove a permanent civil servant in the 
Federal Government.\6\ This problem is epitomized by an example 
from 2014 where a VA peer-support specialist took a veteran, 
who was an inpatient at the substance abuse clinic of the 
Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System, to an off-campus 
location where he helped the veteran purchase illegal drugs and 
paid for the veteran to partake in other illicit behaviors.\7\ 
It took VA over a year to even begin the removal process for 
this employee.\8\ Furthermore, a recent study by Vanderbilt 
University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions 
found that when they surveyed non-management federal workers 
across the government and asked them how often under-
performing, non-management employees are reassigned or 
dismissed, 70% said it ``rarely or never happens.''\9\ The 
Committee believes that these are clear indications that VA 
employees, and the federal system at large, are trapped in a 
failed and antiquated civil service system that is in desperate 
need of reform.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\U.S. Government Accountability Office, Federal Workforce: 
Improved Supervision and Better Use of Probationary Periods are Needed 
to Address Substandard Employee Performance http://www.gao.gov/assets/
670/668339.pdf.
    \7\Report: VA employee took recovering vet to crack house, 
Montgomery Advertiser, August 16, 2014. http://
www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/alabama/2014/08/17/
report-va-employee-took-recovering-vet-crack-house/14190573/.
    \8\A VA employee, a crack house, and a lengthy firing process, The 
Washington Post, August 29, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/
federal-eye/wp/2014/08/29/a-va-employee-a-crack-house-and-a-lengthy-
firing-process/.
    \9\The Fiscal Times, Federal Employees: Can't Hire the Best, Can't 
Fire the Worst, July 17, 2015. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/07/
17/Federal-Employees-Can-t-Hire-Best-Can-t-Fire-Worst.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Therefore, Section 3 would amend title 38, U.S.C., and 
create section 719, which would provide the VA Secretary with 
the authority to remove, demote, or suspend any title 5, hybrid 
title 38, or SES VA employee for performance or misconduct. 
Under this Section, the employee would be entitled to advance 
notice and the opportunity to respond to the charges, which 
cannot exceed ten business days altogether. The Secretary would 
then have five business days to make a final determination on 
the disciplinary action after reviewing the employee's 
response. Once this decision has been made, the employee would 
be entitled to appeal his or her removal, demotion, or 
suspension to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), as 
long as the appeal is made within 7 business days of receiving 
his or her final disciplinary action from the Secretary. An 
administrative judge from the MSPB would then have 45 days to 
complete an expedited appeal and render a decision. Beyond this 
level of appeal, the employee or the VA would be allowed to 
petition for further review by the full MSPB and both parties 
would be authorized to seek judicial review of the full MSPB's 
decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. 
If the administrative judge under the MSPB is unable to 
complete the first level of appeal within 45 days, the MSPB 
would have 14 days to submit a report to Congress explaining 
why it was unable to render a decision within the required 
timeframe. In reviewing this appeal, the MSPB, at both the 
administrative judge and full MSPB levels, must provide 
deference to the Secretary's level of punishment and would be 
required to uphold the decision, for both performance and 
misconduct charges, if the case is supported by substantial 
evidence.
    To provide fairness for all employees and streamline the 
appeals process, the procedure set up by this Section to 
dispute a removal, demotion, or suspension for performance or 
misconduct, would supersede any title 5, U.S.C., requirements 
and any current collective bargaining agreements that VA has at 
both the national and local levels. The Committee understands 
this is a major shift, in not only VA's current policy but also 
across the entire civil service system, but believes that such 
a step is necessary to ensure that the expedited timeline 
created by this Section is not bypassed by current grievance 
procedures provided in collective bargaining agreements. For 
example, the Committee found that, if each procedural step is 
followed, VA's master agreement with the American Federation of 
Government Employees (AFGE) triggers a 349-day process, and 
this time period can be expanded.\10\ The Committee believes 
that it would defy common sense to have the expedited 
provisions of this bill superseded by a process that can take 
349 days or more. Some have contended that the arbitration 
process can take longer than a decision by the MSPB and ``. . 
.arbitrators tend to be more open to reversing disciplinary 
cases in genera1.\11\'' The Committee finds this contrary to 
the goal of reforming the VA and providing the avenue to more 
expeditiously remove unacceptable employees.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\Master Agreement Between the American Federation of Government 
Employees and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, March 2011. 
https://www.va.gov/lmr/docs/agreements/afge/
master_agreement_between_dva_and_afge-fin_march_2011.pdf.
    \11\Berry, John V. ``MSBP vs. Arbitration--A Choice for Federal 
Employees'' February 25, 2014. http://www.mspblawblog.com/2014/02/mspb-
vs-arbitration-a-choice-for-federal-employees.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To prevent retaliation, this Section would also protect 
whistleblowers by not allowing the Secretary to remove, demote, 
or suspend an employee if he or she has filed a complaint with 
the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or under the whistleblower 
protections that were enacted into law as part of the 
``Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans 
Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2017, and 
Zika Response and Preparedness Act,'' (P.L. 114-223) until such 
complaints are resolved and/or finalized. The Committee 
believes that providing these protections is critically 
important, as whistleblowers are vital to this Committee's 
oversight of VA. Further, the Committee believes that the new 
disciplinary process outlined by this Section would provide 
constitutionally adequate levels of due process for employees 
while still providing the Secretary with the authority to 
remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee for poor performance 
or misconduct.

Section 4. Reduction of benefits for Department of Veterans Affairs 
        employees convicted of certain crimes

    As a result of the wait list scandal referenced throughout 
this report, a new focus was placed on holding VA employees 
accountable. When the Department does take appropriate action, 
managers are often blocked from making real progress due to the 
length and complexity of current disciplinary procedures, which 
can allow an employee to elude punishment and an adverse record 
of conduct on the employee's employment file by retiring in 
lieu of removal. The Committee believes that employees who are 
proposed for removal due to their misconduct or poor 
performance should not be able to retire or resign without any 
consequence and with their full federal pensions. Once 
employees file for retirement, irrespective of any proposed 
removal from federal service, current law does not permit 
actions that would reduce the employee's federal pension and 
benefits except in rare and extreme circumstances, such as in 
cases of treason or terrorism.
    In 1954, Congress enacted what is commonly known as the 
``Hiss Act,'' which prohibited the distribution of any federal 
retirement pensions to Federal Government employees, as well as 
Members of Congress, who were convicted of offenses ``relating 
to disloyalty, the national defense and national security, 
conflicts of interest, bribery and graft, or for federal 
offenses relating generally to the exercise of one's 
`authority, influence, power, or privileges as an officer or 
employee of the Government.'''\12\ In 1961, Congress amended 
the statute to narrow this authority, so that a federal 
employee's pension could only be reduced for more serious 
offenses that could harm the protection of the United States 
such as treason and acts of terrorism.\13\ While the Committee 
understands the congressional intent behind setting such a high 
bar for recouping an employee's federal pension, the Committee 
believes the VA patient access scandal and VA's demonstrated 
inability to hold employees accountable in a timely manner--
therefore allowing individuals with the most egregious charges 
against them to retire in lieu of punishment--warrants a change 
in current civil service laws to ensure that VA employees do 
not personally benefit from felonious activity.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \12\Congressional Research Service Report No. 96-530, Sept. 12, 
2013, page 1, https://www.fas.org-sgp-crs-misc/96-530.pdf (citing P.L. 
83-769, 68 Stat. 1142 (Sept. 1, 1954), see now 5 U.S.C. Sec. 8311 et 
seq).
    \13\P.L. 87-299, 75 Stat. 640 (Sept. 26, 1961), see now 5 U.S.C. 
Sec. 8312.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Therefore, Section 4 would amend chapter 7 of title 38, 
U.S.C., to allow the Secretary to reduce the retirement pay for 
any VA employee upon his or her conviction of a felony that 
influenced that employee's performance at work. The Secretary 
would have the authority to reduce the accrued years of 
credible service counted towards an employee's pension by the 
number of years in which the employee was found to have 
committed acts involved in the felony conviction. Any 
contributions made by that employee toward his or her pension 
during this period would be returned to the employee in a lump 
sum. This Section would not, however, allow the Secretary to 
reduce any accrued federal health benefits. Before the 
reduction could take place, the employee would be entitled to 
notification of the reduction and an opportunity to respond as 
well as an appeal of the Secretary's final decision to the 
Director of the Office of Personnel Management. The Committee 
believes that providing the VA Secretary with this authority 
still affords protections to employees by targeting only 
instances of felonies that influence the employee's work 
performance while also providing a fair process for the 
employee to dispute such an action.

Section 5. Authority to recoup bonuses or awards paid to employees of 
        Department of Veterans Affairs

    The Committee's investigations into the wait list scandal 
have uncovered evidence that some VA employees and VA senior 
managers may have falsified data to improve their performance 
metrics to receive bonuses. Regardless of whether falsified 
data used to justify the receipt of bonus money was 
deliberately manipulated or not, bonuses should be awarded on 
the basis of actual, verified performance, and not on an 
inaccurate portrayal of one's work.
    Following investigations by the Committee, the VA's Office 
of Inspector General (VAOIG), and outside media outlets that 
brought these VA scandals to light during previous Congresses, 
Committee Members questioned the large bonuses that were issued 
to many VA employees, especially many senior VA leaders who 
oversaw facilities where ``secret'' appointment wait-lists were 
used. Committee Members questioned VA at several Committee 
hearings from April 2014 to August 2014 on whether the 
Secretary would have the legal authority to recoup any 
performance awards or bonuses issued to VA employees if the 
Secretary deemed their performance, particularly performance 
based on manipulated or inaccurate data, merited the 
recoupment. On June 17, 2014, Committee staff was told at a 
briefing by Mr. Samuel Retherford, VA's then-Principal Deputy 
Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, 
that the Secretary had the authority to rescind any bonus or 
performance award from an SES employee within 12 months of it 
being awarded to the employee. Later, at a June 20, 2014, full 
Committee oversight hearing entitled, ``A Review of Awarding 
Bonuses to Senior Executives at the Department of Veterans 
Affairs,'' the Honorable Gina Farrisee, VA's then-Assistant 
Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, informed 
Members of the Committee that the Secretary did not have the 
authority to rescind any bonus or performance award from any 
employee after the award had been issued.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing, ``A Review of 
Awarding Bonuses to Senior Executives at the Department of Veterans 
Affairs,'' June 20, 2014, https://edit-republicans-veterans.house.gov/
sites/republicans.veterans.house.gov/files/113-75.PDF.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    On July 15, 2014, following the conflicting statements made 
by VA employees as to whether the Secretary had the authority 
to rescind a performance award, then-Chairman Representative 
Jeff Miller of Florida sent then-Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson 
a letter explicitly inquiring whether VA had the authority to 
rescind a bonus already issued to an employee. Mr. Gibson 
replied via letter on August 19, 2014, that ``the Department 
does not have the authority to rescind performance awards 
issued in accordance with policies and paid to employees for 
performance ratings that are final.''
    The Committee believes that if a VA employee acts 
unbecoming of VA and its mission to veterans, as determined by 
the Secretary, then the Secretary should have the authority to 
rescind any bonus or performance award issued to that employee. 
This Section would authorize the recoupment of any bonus if the 
Secretary determines that the employee engaged in misconduct or 
poor performance and that the bonus would not have been paid to 
the employee had the Secretary been made aware of the 
misconduct or poor performance prior to the payment of the 
award. Under this Section, the employee would be provided pre-
recoupment notice and an opportunity to respond to the 
Secretary's recoupment order. This pre-recoupment step, the 
Secretary's review of the employee's response, and the final 
decision would have to be completed within 15 business days 
from the initial notice of the proposed recoupment. Following 
the Secretary's decision, the employee would have seven days to 
appeal such decision to another Federal Government agency or 
department. The head of such agency or department would be 
required to make a final decision on this appeal within 30 days 
of the filing of the appeal. In congruence with the previous 
Section, the Committee believes that the new procedures set up 
in this Section would provide the appropriate level of 
expediency while still maintaining a fair process for employees 
to dispute the recoupment.

Section 6. Authority to recoup relocation expenses paid to or on behalf 
        of employees of Department of Veterans Affairs

    Relocation incentives and expenses have long been 
considered as a positive benefit to relocate VA employees to 
locations that they would not otherwise be inclined to, and a 
way to defray the costs associated with this change of duty 
station. In its final report, entitled ``Inappropriate Use of 
Position and the Misuse of the Relocation Program and 
Incentives,'' the VAOIG concluded that two SES employees from 
VA's Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA), Ms. Diana Rubens 
and Ms. Kimberly Graves, ``. . . inappropriately used their 
positions of authority for personal and financial benefit when 
they participated personally and substantially in creating 
opportunities for their own transfers to positions they were 
interested in filling.''\15\ In doing so, the VAOIG concluded 
that they orchestrated and financially benefitted from their 
moves and that VA should examine whether a bill of collection 
should be issued to Ms. Rubens and Ms. Graves for the 
relocation expenses associated with their moves. The amount of 
money that the VAOIG recommended VA collect from Ms. Rubens and 
Ms. Graves was $274,019 and $129,468, respectively.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\Report no. 15-02997-526, VA Office of the Inspector General, 
``Administrative Investigation: Inappropriate Use of Position and 
Misuse of Relocation Program and Incentives,'' September 28, 2015, 
http://www.va.gov/oigtoubs/VAOIG-15-2997-526.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In its written response to the report, VA concurred with 
the VAOIG's recommendation to determine whether bills of 
collection should be issued to recover unjustified relocation 
incentives paid to Ms. Rubens and Ms. Graves, but failed to 
take action to rescind any of the relocation expenses paid out 
to both of these SES employees. VA later claimed that there was 
never an attempt to recoup these funds, because, during the 
review process of potential disciplinary action against Ms. 
Rubens and Ms. Graves, then-VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson 
concluded that he did not agree with the VAOIG's assessment 
that either employee had misused their authority to orchestrate 
their own transfers for financial gain.
    During a December 9, 2015, Committee hearing entitled, 
``Fact Check: An End of Year Review of Accountability at the 
Department of Veterans Affairs,'' Mr. Gibson did not make it 
clear if VA had the explicit authority to recoup relocation 
expenses paid to VA employees if it was determined that they 
received these taxpayer-funded expenses through ill-gotten 
means.\16\ The Committee received similarly vague and unclear 
statements from VA officials in subsequent follow-up requests 
for information and during questioning of a VA witness at an 
April 14, 2016, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 
legislative hearing in the 114th Congress on H.R. 4138, which 
contained language similar to that in this Section.\17\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \16\House Committee on Veterans Affairs, ``Fact Check: An End of 
Year Review of Accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs,'' 
December 9, 2015.
    \17\House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic 
Opportunity, ``Legislative Hearing On: H.R. 748; H.R. 2551; H.R. 3286; 
H.R. 3419; H.R. 4138; And 4 Draft Bills,'' April 14, 2016.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    To address VA's uncertainty of its authority to recoup 
relocation expenses issued to a VA employee, this Section was 
proposed to give the Secretary the clear authority to recoup 
any taxpayer funds associated with a VA employee's relocation 
when the Secretary deems it necessary. This Section would 
authorize the Secretary to recoup all, or a portion, of any 
funding provided for relocation expenses authorized under 
section 5724 or 5724a of title 5, U.S.C., if the Secretary 
determines that the expenses were not lawfully authorized or 
that the employee committed an act of fraud, waste, or 
malfeasance that influenced the authorization of such expenses. 
In a timeline that aligns with that provided for the recoupment 
of bonuses in Section 5 of this bill, employees would be 
entitled to notification of the proposed recoupment and an 
opportunity to respond to the Secretary's recoupment order. 
Following the Secretary's decision, the employee would have 
seven days to appeal such decision to another Federal 
Government agency or department. The head of such agency or 
department would be required to make a final decision on this 
appeal within 30 days of filing. The Committee believes that 
this Section would provide the Secretary with yet another 
needed tool to hold VA employees accountable while still 
providing appropriate levels of due process rights through the 
review by a third party entity to ensure that this authority is 
not abused.

Section 7. Time period for response to notice of adverse actions 
        against supervisory employees who commit prohibited personnel 
        actions

    Essential to the Committee's oversight efforts, is the 
information it receives from veterans and VA employees who 
bring problems and concerns regarding the Department to the 
Committee's attention. Unfortunately, as a result of VA 
employees' anonymous or public allegations of wrongdoing, many 
individuals report retaliation at the hands of supervisors, 
senior managers, and other VA employees. This retaliation 
discourages employees from stepping forward to bring problems 
and concerns to light, leading to a pernicious and toxic 
environment where problems are disguised and not fully 
addressed. As a result, veterans suffer the consequences.
    The ``Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, 
Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 
2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act'' (P.L. 114-223) 
created section 733 of title 38, U.S.C., which authorized a new 
whistleblower process that provides an opportunity for 
whistleblowers to resolve issues at the lowest level but also 
prescribed a plan for swift resolution if lower-level attempts 
are not possible. As part of these new protections, language 
was inserted to provide for a swift accountability procedure 
for those who have retaliated against whistleblowers. This 
Section would amend section 733 of title 38, U.S.C., to match 
the pre-notification requirements and timelines with the pre-
notification timelines that would be in place for discipline 
under Section 3 of this bill.

Section 8. Direct hiring authority for medical center directors and 
        VISN directors

    The Committee recognizes a need for stable, permanent 
leadership at VA medical centers (VAMCs), which have 
experienced high levels of turnover in recent years. For 
example, a March 2015 VA Fact Sheet claimed that, from June 
2014 to March 2015, 91 percent of VA medical facilities had new 
leaders or leadership teams installed and an October 2015 CNN 
interview with then-VA Deputy Secretary, Sloan Gibson, claimed 
that more than half of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) 
senior leaders had turned over in the previous two years. 
Considering that VA continues to rank among the worst-
performing large Federal agencies in terms of effective 
leadership and that approximately 60 percent of VA employees 
are over the age of 45, the Committee is concerned that VA 
lacks a dependable pipeline of emerging leaders and will 
continue to struggle to recruit high-performing employees to 
fill critical leadership roles.\18\\19\ Furthermore, VA's 
hiring and onboarding processes are notoriously slow, sometimes 
taking upwards of six months to bring on new hires, which can 
create and contribute to vacancies for VAMC and Veterans 
Integrated Service Network (VISN) director positions.\20\ An 
equally important step to building strong leadership within the 
Department is to ensure that leaders are well-qualified. As of 
May 2016, only 16 of 140 VA medical center directors had 
clinical training.\21\ Without experienced, well-qualified 
leaders at the helm, facility and VISN staffs lack proper 
guidance and oversight when making decisions regarding hospital 
management, clinical operations, and patient care. To address 
these issues, Section 8 of the bill would authorize VA to 
directly appoint individuals to VAMC and VISN Director 
positions if they have a demonstrated ability in the medical 
profession, health care administration, or health care fiscal 
management.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\Partnership for Public Service, ``Best Places to Work Large 
Agency Rankings,'' Accessed March 9, 2017. http://bestplacestowork.oru/
BPTW/rankings/overall/large.
    \19\House Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health and 
Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity Hearing, ``Legislative Hearing on 
draft legislation to improve the authority of the Secretary of Veterans 
Affairs to hire and retain physicians and other employees of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs,'' March 16, 2016.
    \20\Ibid.
    \21\Ibid.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 9. Time periods for review of adverse actions with respect to 
        certain employees

    Title 38, U.S.C., authorizes special rules and regulations 
for hiring, paying, and disciplining certain medical 
professionals within VA. Section 7401(1) of title 38, U.S.C., 
specifies that these new rules apply to physicians, dentists, 
podiatrists, chiropractors, optometrists, registered nurses, 
physician assistants, and expanded-function dental auxiliaries. 
Current law requires that if any of these employees face a 
major adverse action, defined as a removal, suspension, or 
demotion, that is the result of a question of professional 
conduct or competence, that employee has the right to either 
dispute this action through grievance procedures provided 
through collective bargaining agreements or through VA's 
internal Disciplinary Appeals Board.
    In the interest of providing an equal procedure for all 
adverse actions, this Section would amend sections 7461, 7462 
and 7463 of title 38, U.S.C., to match the process for 
disputing adverse actions under these sections to the pre-
notification and response procedures provided in Section 3 of 
this bill for non-title 38 employees. This would include a ten 
business day period prior to taking adverse action and a 
requirement that the Disciplinary Appeals Board complete its 
review of the employee's appeal within 45 business days of its 
filing. In conjunction with Section 3, this Section would also 
eliminate the ability for bargaining unit employees to use any 
current grievance procedures to dispute these actions. 
Additionally, this Section would subject all disciplinary 
actions for title 38 employees related to professional conduct 
or competence through this expedited procedure regardless of if 
they are considered major adverse actions. The Committee 
believes that the health and safety of veterans should be 
paramount and that it is appropriate to have an expedited 
process for actions related to actions that directly impact 
patient care through professional conduct or competence. This 
expedited process also provides greater fairness for employees 
who have been wrongly accused of an egregious action so that 
they can return to their service to veterans if they are 
absolved of any wrongdoing.

                                Hearings

    There were no Subcommittee or full Committee hearings held 
in relation to H.R. 1259.

                       Subcommittee Consideration

    There was no Subcommittee consideration of H.R. 1259.

                        Committee Consideration

    On March 8, 2017, the full Committee met in open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 1259 be 
reported favorably to the House of Representatives by voice 
vote. During consideration of the bill, the following 
amendments were considered:
          An amendment offered by Representative Tim Walz of 
        Minnesota, Ranking Member of the Committee on Veterans' 
        Affairs, that would have removed Sections 3 and 9 of 
        the base text and replaced them with different and 
        separate processes for removing both front line and SES 
        employees. This process for SES employees would allow 
        them to appeal any removal, reprimand, suspension, 
        involuntary reassignment or demotion internally at VA 
        but would not have a finite timeline on how long the 
        individual has to respond to a proposed action and 
        allows the Secretary to set up an internal grievance 
        process for such disputes. Under this amendment, 
        Secretary would have the authority to remove any other 
        VA employee for performance or misconduct, but the 
        performance would be limited to 2-year window of the 
        proposed disciplinary action, and would maintain the 
        higher evidentiary standard of preponderance of the 
        evidence to sustain the disciplinary action upon appeal 
        for misconduct charges. Further, the timelines for 
        processing disputes under this process would be open-
        ended, the necessity for performance improvement plans 
        would remain in place, and the grievance process 
        through collective bargaining agreements would also 
        remain intact. The amendment was defeated by voice 
        vote.
          An amendment in the nature of substitute, offered by 
        Representative Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire, 
        would have maintained the base text of the bill but 
        would have reinserted the right to grieve any proposed 
        actions through the collective bargaining agreements 
        between VA and federal employee unions. The amendment 
        would ensure that these grievance procedures would 
        still be an option for collective bargaining unit 
        employees to dispute removals, demotions, or 
        suspensions. The amendment in the nature of a 
        substitute was defeated by voice vote.
          An amendment in the nature of a substitute, offered 
        by Representative Mark Takano of California, that would 
        replace the base text of the bill with a new procedure 
        that would authorize the Secretary to suspend an 
        employee, with a subsequent option for removal, for any 
        performance or misconduct that is a threat to public 
        health or safety. This would be an additional authority 
        to other disciplinary authorities in title 38, U.S.C., 
        and title 5, U.S.C. Under this amendment in the nature 
        of a substitute, the Secretary would be authorized to 
        suspend without pay an employee who is determined to be 
        a threat to public health or safety and then would 
        allow the Secretary to remove the employee, only after 
        an investigation is completed during his or her 
        suspension, which leads the Secretary to determine they 
        are a threat. The employee would be entitled to, after 
        his or her suspension, 30-days' notice with the 
        charges, and an additional 30 days to respond, which 
        can be expanded if the charges are amended. There would 
        be no timeline on the Secretary's review or any change 
        to an appeal process. The amendment in the nature of a 
        substitute was defeated by voice vote.
    A motion by Representative Mike Coffman of Colorado to 
report H.R. 1259 favorably to the House of Representatives was 
agreed to by voice vote.

                            Committee Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, no recorded votes were taken on 
amendments or in connection with ordering H.R. 1259 reported to 
the House.


                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are to provide new accountability 
procedures for employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs 
while maintaining their constitutional due process rights as 
Federal Government employees.

                  Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits

    H.R. 1259 does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

                        Committee Cost Estimate

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that Rule provides 
that this requirement does not apply when the Committee has 
included in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the 
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974. The Committee has requested but not received a cost 
estimate for this bill from the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office. The Committee believes that enactment of this 
bill would result in no additional direct spending over the 
2018-2022 period. Assuming the appropriation of authorized 
amounts, the Committee estimates that the legislation would 
also have a discretionary cost of $2 million over the 2018-2022 
period.

     Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has requested 
but not received a cost estimate for this bill from the 
Director of Congressional Budget Office. The Committee has 
requested but not received from the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office a statement as to whether this bill 
contains any new budget authority, spending authority, credit 
authority, or an increase or decrease in revenues or tax 
expenditures.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    With respect to the requirements of Section 423 of the 
Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act (as amended by 
Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-
4), the Committee has requested but not received from the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office a statement as to 
whether the provisions of the reported bill include unfunded 
mandates.

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act would be created by H.R. 
1259.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, H.R. 1259 is authorized by Congress' power to 
``provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the 
United States.''

                  Applicability to Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that H.R. 1259 does not relate to the 
terms and conditions of employment or access to public services 
or accommodations within the meaning of section 102(b)(3) of 
the Congressional Accountability Act.

              Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(5) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds that no provision 
of H.R. 1259 establishes or reauthorizes a program of the 
Federal Government known to be duplicative of another Federal 
program, a program that was included in any report from the 
Government Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to 
section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a 
program identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal 
Domestic Assistance.

                   Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking

    Pursuant to section 3(i) of H. Res. 5, 115th Cong. (2017), 
H.R. 1259 would require the Secretary of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs, in consultation with the Office of Personnel 
Management, to prescribe regulations that may provide for the 
payment to the spouse or children of any individual whose 
federal annuity may be reduced by Section 4 of the bill.

             Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation


Section I. Short title; Table of Contents

    Section 1 cites the short title of H.R. 1259, to be the 
``VA Accountability First Act of 2017'' and provides the table 
of contents for the bill.

Section 2. References to Title 38, United States Code

    Section 2 states that, except as otherwise expressly 
provided, whenever in this Act that there is an amendment to, 
or repeal of, a section or other provision, the reference shall 
be considered to be made to a section or other provision of 
title 38, U.S.C.

Section 3. Removal, demotion, or suspension of employees based on 
        performance or misconduct

    Section 3(a) would amend subchapter I of chapter 7 of title 
38, U.S.C., to create a new section 719 entitled, ``Employees: 
removal, demotion, or suspension based on performance or 
misconduct.''
    Sec. 719(a) would provide the Secretary with the authority 
to remove, demote, or suspend any VA employee for poor 
performance or misconduct.
    Sec. 719(b) would require that if an individual has been 
demoted under section 719(a), that his or her new annual rate 
of pay shall begin on the date of his or her demotion. The 
section would further require that if the individual appeals 
that demotion, he or she would not be allowed to remain on any 
category of paid leave during appeal.
    Sec. 719(c) would require the Secretary, by no later than 
thirty days after removing, demoting, or suspending an 
individual under section 719(a) or under chapter 74 of title 
38, U.S.C., who is a employed in a senior executive position, 
to submit a written notification of the removal, demotion, or 
suspension to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs and to each Member of Congress representing a district 
in the State or territory where the facility in which the 
individual was employed immediately before being removed, 
demoted, or suspended. Sec. 719(c) would require that such 
notice include the job title of the individual, the location 
where the individual was employed immediately before being 
removed, demoted, or suspended, the proposed action, and the 
reason for such removal, demotion, or suspension. This section 
would also require that not later than 30 days after the last 
day of the fiscal year, that the Secretary submit a report to 
the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs listing 
all removals, demotions, and suspensions under this section or 
under section 74 of title 38, U.S.C., for all other VA 
employees.
    Sec. 719(d) would require that the procedures set up by 
section 7513(b) and chapter 43 of title 5, U.S.C., shall apply 
to any removal, demotion, or suspension under this section, 
except that the period for notice and response, which includes 
the advance notice period and the response period of section 
7513 of title 5, U.S.C., shall not exceed a total of 10 
business days. Sec. 719(d) would also not apply procedures 
under section 7121 of title 5, U.S.C., in respect to any 
removal, demotion, or suspension under this section. This 
section would also require the Secretary to issue a final 
decision with respect to a removal, demotion, or suspension 
under this section not later than five business days after 
receiving the individual's response; or in the case of a 
proposed removal, demotion, or suspension to which the 
individual does not respond, not later than fifteen business 
days after the Secretary provides notice of such removal, 
demotion, or suspension authorized under this section. The 
procedures under chapter 43 of title 5, U.S.C., would not apply 
under this section. Sec. 719(d) would also authorize 
individuals to appeal their removal, demotion, or suspension to 
the MSPB under 7701(b)(1) of title 5, U.S.C., only if they file 
such appeal within seven days of their removal, demotion, or 
suspension.
    Sec. 719(e) would set up an expedited process for reviewing 
appeals made by employees, who are removed, demoted, or 
suspended under subsection (d)(4)(a) of this section, to an 
administrative judge of the MSPB. Under this procedure the 
administrative judge would have 45 days to issue a decision 
after an appeal has been filed. Notwithstanding section 
7701(c)(1)(B) of title 5, U.S.C., the administrative judge 
shall uphold the decision of the Secretary to remove, demote, 
or suspend an employee if the decision is supported by 
substantial evidence. If the decision is supported by 
substantial evidence, the administrative judge would not be 
allowed to mitigate the penalty by the Secretary.
    The decision of the administrative judge may be appealed to 
the MSPB, only if such an appeal is made not later than seven 
business days after the date of the decision of the 
administrative judge. In any case in which the administrative 
judge cannot issue a decision in accordance with the 45-day 
requirement, the MSPB shall, not later than fourteen business 
days after the expiration of the 45-day period, submit to the 
House and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, a report that 
explains the reasons why a decision was not issued in 
accordance with the requirement. A decision of the MSPB may 
also be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 
Federal Circuit pursuant to section 7703 of title 5, U.S.C. An 
appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal 
Circuit may only be made if such appeal is made not later than 
seven business days after the date of the decision of the MSPB.
    Sec. 719(e) would also require any decision by the Court to 
be in compliance with section 7462(f)(2) of title 38, U.S.C., 
and would not allow the MSPB to stay any removal or demotion 
under this section. This subsection would also not allow any 
individual to receive any pay, awards, bonuses, incentives, 
allowances, differentials, student loan repayments, special 
payments, or benefits related to the employment of the 
individual by the Department from the beginning date of his or 
her appeal of removal from civil service through the date that 
the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit 
issues a final decision.
    This subsection would also require the Secretary, to the 
maximum extent practicable, to provide the MSPB such 
information and assistance as may be necessary to ensure an 
appeal under this subsection is expedited and would require 
that the employee is entitled to back pay if the employee 
prevails on appeal.
    Sec. 719(e) would also require that this subsection 
supersede any collective bargaining agreement to the extent 
that such an agreement conflicts with this subsection.
    Sec. 719(f) would preclude VA from removing, demoting, or 
suspending an individual under this section if the individual 
is seeking corrective action from the Office of Special Counsel 
based on alleged prohibited personnel practices as described in 
section 2302(b) of title 5, U.S.C., without the approval of the 
Special Counsel under section 1214(f) of title 5, U.S.C. This 
subsection would also not allow the Secretary to remove, 
demote, or suspend any individual who has filed a whistleblower 
complaint, as is defined in section 731 of title 38, U.S.C., 
until a final decision with respect to the whistleblower 
complaint has been made.
    Sec. 719(g) would, notwithstanding any other provision of 
law, authorize the Special Counsel to terminate an 
investigation of a prohibited personnel practices alleged by a 
VA employee or former VA employee once the Special Counsel 
provides a written statement explaining the reasons for the 
termination of the investigation. Such written statement would 
not be admissible as evidence in any judicial or administrative 
proceeding without the consent of the employee or former 
employee.
    Sec. 719(h) would require the Secretary, to the maximum 
extent feasible, to fill the vacancy arising as a result of 
such removal or demotion under subsection (a).
    Sec. 719(i) would provide definitions of terms used in the 
new section 719.
    Section 3(b) would repeal section 713 of title 38, U.S.C.
    Section 3(c) would make clerical and conforming amendments.
    Section 3(d) would provide a temporary exemption from 
certain limitations on initiation from removal from the Senior 
Executive Service. Section 3(d) would allow for, during the 
120-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, 
an action to remove an individual from the Senior Executive 
Service at the Department of Veterans of Affairs 
notwithstanding section 3592(b) of title 5, U.S.C.

Section 4. Reduction of benefits for Department of Veterans Affairs 
        employees convicted of certain crimes

    Section 4(a) would amend subchapter I of chapter 7 of title 
38, U.S.C., to create a new section 721, entitled ``Reduction 
of benefits of employees convicted of certain crimes.''
    Sec. 721(a) would allow the Secretary to reduce any VA 
employee's annuity if the employee is removed from his or her 
position for performance or misconduct, and the Secretary 
determines that the individual is convicted of a felony that 
influenced the individual's performance while employed at VA. 
Before such order is made, the individual would be afforded a 
notice of the proposed order; an opportunity to respond to the 
proposed order not later than 10 business days following 
receipt of the notice; and an issuance of a final order by the 
Secretary not later than 5 business days after the Secretary 
receives the response of the individual. The individual would 
also have an opportunity to appeal the Secretary's final order 
to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management within 7 
days of the final issuance by the Secretary. The Director of 
the Office of Personnel Management would be required to make a 
final decision with respect to the appeal within 30 business 
days of receiving the appeal.
    Sec. 721(b) would apply the same procedures as prescribed 
in subsection 721(a) for the reduction of a VA employee's 
annuity upon conviction of certain crimes if the individual 
leaves or retires from employment at the Department prior to 
the issuance of a final decision with respect to a removal for 
performance of misconduct.
    Sec. 721(c) would require the Director of the Office of 
Personnel Management to recalculate an individual's annuity not 
later than 37 days after the Secretary issues a final order 
under subsections 721(a) or (b).
    Sec. 721(d) would entitle an individual whose annuity is 
reduced under subsections 721(a) or (b) to be paid so much of 
the individual's lump-sum credit as is attributable to the 
period of covered service.
    Sec. 721(e) would require the Secretary, in consultation 
with the Office of Personnel Management, to prescribe 
regulations that may provide for the payment to the spouse or 
children of any individual referred to in subsections 721(a) or 
(b) of any amounts that (but for this subsection) would 
otherwise have been non-payable by reason of such subsections.
    Sec. 721(f) would prescribe definitions for this new 
section 721.
    Section 4(b) would apply to any action of removal of an 
employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs under section 
719 or 7461 of title 38, U.S.C., commencing on or after the 
date of enactment.

Section 5. Authority to recoup bonuses or awards paid to employees of 
        the Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 5(a) would amend subchapter I of chapter 7 of title 
38, U.S.C., to create a new section 723 entitled, ``Recoupment 
of bonuses or awards paid to employees of Department.''
    Sec. 723(a) would allow the Secretary to issue an order 
directing a VA employee to repay the amount, or portion of the 
amount, of any award or bonus paid to the employee under title 
5, U.S.C., including chapters 45 of 53 of such title, if the 
Secretary determines that the individual engaged in misconduct 
or poor performance prior to the payment of the award or bonus, 
and that such award or bonus would not have been paid, in whole 
or in part, had the misconduct or poor performance been known 
prior to payment of the award. Prior to repayment of the award, 
the employee would be afforded notice of the proposed order and 
an opportunity to respond not later than 10 business days after 
receiving the order. The Secretary would be required to issue a 
final decision not later than 5 business days after receiving 
the individual's response.
    Sec. 723(b) would provide the individual with the 
opportunity to appeal the order to another department or agency 
of the Federal Government within 7 days of receiving the final 
issuance of the Secretary.
    Sec. 723(c) would require the head of the applicable 
department or agency of the Federal Government to make a final 
decision with respect to the appeal within 30 business days 
after receiving the appeal.
    Section 5(b) would make a clerical amendment to add this 
new section to the table of sections at the beginning of such 
chapter.
    Section 5(c) would require that subsection 723 of title 38, 
U.S.C., as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to 
an award or bonus paid by the Secretary to an employee of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs on or after the date of 
enactment of this Act.
    Section 5(d) would declare that nothing in this Act or the 
amendments made by this Act may be construed to modify the 
certification issued by the Office of Personnel Management and 
the Office of Management and Budget regarding the performance 
appraisal system of the Senior Executive Service of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs.

Section 6. Authority to recoup relocation expenses paid to or on behalf 
        of employees of Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 6(a) would amend subchapter I of chapter 7 to 
create a new section 725 entitled, ``Recoupment of Relocation 
Expenses Paid on Behalf of employees of Department.''
    Sec. 725(a) would allow the Secretary, notwithstanding any 
other provision of law, to issue an order directing an employee 
of the Department to repay the amount, or portion of the 
amount, paid to or on behalf of the employee under title 5, 
U.S.C., for relocation expenses, including any expenses under 
section 5724 or 5724(A) of such title, if the Secretary 
determines that the relocation expenses were not lawfully 
authorized or that the employee committed an act of fraud, 
waste, or malfeasance that influenced the authorization of the 
relocation expenses. Prior to repayment of the award, the 
employee would be afforded notice of the proposed order and an 
opportunity to respond not later than 10 business days after 
receiving the order. The Secretary would be required to issue a 
final decision not later than 5 business days after receiving 
the individual's response.
    Sec. 725(b) would provide the individual with the 
opportunity to appeal the order to another department or agency 
of the Federal Government within 7 days of receiving the final 
issuance of the Secretary.
    Sec. 725(c) would require the head of the applicable 
department or agency of the Federal Government to make a final 
decision with respect to the appeal within 30 business days 
after receiving the appeal.
    Section 6(b) would make a clerical amendment to add this 
new section to the table of sections at the beginning of such 
chapter.
    Section 6(c) would require that subsection 725 of title 38, 
U.S.C., as added by subsection (a), shall apply with respect to 
an amount paid by the Secretary to or on behalf of an employee 
for relocation expenses on or after the date of enactment of 
this Act.

Section 7. Time period for response to notice of adverse actions 
        against supervisory employees who commit prohibited personnel 
        actions

    Section 7 would amend section 733(a)(2)(B) of title 38, 
U.S.C., by striking ``14 days'' in clause (i) and inserting 
``10 days'' and by striking ``14-day period'' in clause (ii) 
and inserting ``10-day period.''

Section 8. Direct hiring authority for medical center director and VISN 
        directors

    Section 8(a) would amend section 7401 of title 38, U.S.C., 
by adding at the end the following new paragraph: ``Medical 
center directors and directors of Veterans Integrated Service 
Networks with demonstrated ability in the medical profession, 
in health care administration, or in health care fiscal 
management.''
    Section 8(b) would provide for a conforming amendment to 
amend section 7401(a)(1) of title 38, U.S.C., by inserting 
``and 7401(4)'' after ``7306.''

Section 9. Time periods for review of adverse actions with respect to 
        certain employees

    Section 9(a) would amend section 7461(b)(2) of title 38, 
U.S.C., to read as follows: ``(2) In any case other than a case 
described in paragraph (1) that involved or includes a question 
of professional conduct or competence in which a major adverse 
action was not taken, such an appeal shall be made through 
Department grievance procedures under section 7463 of title 38, 
U.S.C.''
    Section 9(b) would amend section 7462 of title 38, U.S.C., 
by striking ``at least 30'' and inserting ``Ten business'' in 
section 7462(b)(1)(A) of title 38, U.S.C.; and by striking ``a 
reasonable time, but not less than seven days'' and inserting 
``The opportunity, within the ten-day notice period'' and by 
striking ``orally and'' in section 7462(b)(1)(B) of title 38, 
U.S.C. Section 9(b) would also amend 7462(b)(3)(A) by striking 
``(A) If a proposed adverse action covered by this section is 
not withdrawn'' and inserting ``After considering the 
employee's answer, if any''; by striking ``21 days'' and 
inserting ``5 business days''; by striking ``answer. The 
decision shall include a statement of'' and inserting ``answer 
stating''; and by striking subparagraph (B). Section 9(b) would 
also amend section 7462(b)(4) of title 38, U.S.C., by striking 
``(A) The Secretary'' and all that follows through ``(B) The 
Secretary'' and inserting ``The Secretary''; and by striking 
``30 days'' and inserting ``7 business days''. Section 9(b) 
would also amend section 7462(c)(3) of title 38, U.S.C., by 
inserting ``the hearing must be concluded not later than 30 
business days after the date on which the appeal is filed, 
and'' after ``If such a hearing is held,'' and would amend 
section 7462(c)(4) of title 38, U.S.C., by striking ``45 days'' 
and inserting ``15 business days''; and by striking ``120 
days'' and inserting ``45 business days''. Section 9(b) would 
also amend section 7462(d)(1) of title 38, U.S.C., by striking 
``90 days'' and inserting ``15 business days''.
    Section 9(c) would amend section 7463 of title 38, U.S.C., 
by striking subsection (b) and re-designating subsections (c) 
through (e) as subsection (b) through (d), respectively. 
Section 9(c) would also amend section 7462(b)(2) of title 38, 
U.S.C., as so re-designated, by striking ``an advance'' and 
inserting ``ten business days'' in subparagraph (A) and by 
striking ``a reasonable time'' and inserting ``the opportunity, 
within the ten business day notice period,'' in subparagraph 
(B) and by striking ``orally and'' in the same subparagraph.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

    In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, and existing law in which no 
change is proposed is shown in roman):

                      TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE




           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
PART I--GENERAL PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                          CHAPTER 7--EMPLOYEES


                 SUBCHAPTER I --GENERAL EMPLOYEE MATTERS

Sec.
701. Placement of employees in military installations.
     * * * * * * *
[713. Senior executives: removal based on performance or misconduct.]
715. Congressional testimony by employees: treatment as official duty.
717. Limitation on administrative leave.
719. Employees: removal, demotion, or suspension based on performance or 
          misconduct.
721. Reduction of benefits of employees convicted of certain crimes.
723. Recoupment of bonuses or awards paid to employees of Department.
725. Recoupment of relocation expenses paid to or on behalf of employees 
          of Department.
     * * * * * * *

SUBCHAPTER I--GENERAL EMPLOYEE MATTERS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


[Sec. 713. Senior executives: removal based on performance or 
                    misconduct

  [(a) In General.--(1) The Secretary may remove an individual 
employed in a senior executive position at the Department of 
Veterans Affairs from the senior executive position if the 
Secretary determines the performance or misconduct of the 
individual warrants such removal. If the Secretary so removes 
such an individual, the Secretary may--
          [(A) remove the individual from the civil service (as 
        defined in section 2101 of title 5); or
          [(B) in the case of an individual described in 
        paragraph (2), transfer the individual from the senior 
        executive position to a General Schedule position at 
        any grade of the General Schedule for which the 
        individual is qualified and that the Secretary 
        determines is appropriate.
  [(2) An individual described in this paragraph is an 
individual who--
          [(A) previously occupied a permanent position within 
        the competitive service (as that term is defined in 
        section 2102 of title 5);
          [(B) previously occupied a permanent position within 
        the excepted service (as that term is defined in 
        section 2103 of title 5); or
          [(C) prior to employment in a senior executive 
        position at the Department of Veterans Affairs, did not 
        occupy any position within the Federal Government.
  [(b) Pay of Transferred Individual.--(1) Notwithstanding any 
other provision of law, including the requirements of section 
3594 of title 5, any individual transferred to a General 
Schedule position under subsection (a)(2) shall, beginning on 
the date of such transfer, receive the annual rate of pay 
applicable to such position.
  [(2) An individual so transferred may not be placed on 
administrative leave or any other category of paid leave during 
the period during which an appeal (if any) under this section 
is ongoing, and may only receive pay if the individual reports 
for duty. If an individual so transferred does not report for 
duty, such individual shall not receive pay or other benefits 
pursuant to subsection (e)(5).
  [(c) Notice to Congress.--Not later than 30 days after 
removing or transferring an individual from a senior executive 
position under subsection (a), the Secretary shall submit to 
the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of 
Representatives notice in writing of such removal or transfer 
and the reason for such removal or transfer.
  [(d) Procedure.--(1) The procedures under section 7543(b) of 
title 5 shall not apply to a removal or transfer under this 
section.
  [(2)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B) and subsection (e), any 
removal or transfer under subsection (a) may be appealed to the 
Merit Systems Protection Board under section 7701 of title 5.
  [(B) An appeal under subparagraph (A) of a removal or 
transfer may only be made if such appeal is made not later than 
seven days after the date of such removal or transfer.
  [(e) Expedited Review by Administrative Judge.--(1) Upon 
receipt of an appeal under subsection (d)(2)(A), the Merit 
Systems Protection Board shall refer such appeal to an 
administrative judge pursuant to section 7701(b)(1) of title 5. 
The administrative judge shall expedite any such appeal under 
such section and, in any such case, shall issue a decision not 
later than 21 days after the date of the appeal.
  [(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including 
section 7703 of title 5, the decision of an administrative 
judge under paragraph (1) shall be final and shall not be 
subject to any further appeal.
  [(3) In any case in which the administrative judge cannot 
issue a decision in accordance with the 21-day requirement 
under paragraph (1), the removal or transfer is final. In such 
a case, the Merit Systems Protection Board shall, within 14 
days after the date that such removal or transfer is final, 
submit to Congress and the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of 
the Senate and House of Representatives a report that explains 
the reasons why a decision was not issued in accordance with 
such requirement.
  [(4) The Merit Systems Protection Board or administrative 
judge may not stay any removal or transfer under this section.
  [(5) During the period beginning on the date on which an 
individual appeals a removal from the civil service under 
subsection (d) and ending on the date that the administrative 
judge issues a final decision on such appeal, such individual 
may not receive any pay, awards, bonuses, incentives, 
allowances, differentials, student loan repayments, special 
payments, or benefits.
  [(6) To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall 
provide to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and to any 
administrative judge to whom an appeal under this section is 
referred, such information and assistance as may be necessary 
to ensure an appeal under this subsection is expedited.
  [(f) Relation to Title 5.--(1) The authority provided by this 
section is in addition to the authority provided by section 
3592 or subchapter V of chapter 75 of title 5.
  [(2) Section 3592(b)(1) of title 5 does not apply to an 
action to remove or transfer an individual under this section.
  [(g) Definitions.--In this section:
          [(1) The term ``individual'' means--
                  [(A) a career appointee (as that term is 
                defined in section 3132(a)(4) of title 5); or
                  [(B) any individual who occupies an 
                administrative or executive position and who 
                was appointed under section 7306(a) or section 
                7401(1) of this title.
          [(2) The term ``misconduct'' includes neglect of 
        duty, malfeasance, or failure to accept a directed 
        reassignment or to accompany a position in a transfer 
        of function.
          [(3) The term ``senior executive position'' means--
                  [(A) with respect to a career appointee (as 
                that term is defined in section 3132(a)(4) of 
                title 5), a Senior Executive Service position 
                (as such term is defined in section 3132(a)(2) 
                of title 5); and
                  [(B) with respect to an individual appointed 
                under section 7306(a) or section 7401(1) of 
                this title, an administrative or executive 
                position.]

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 719. Employees: removal, demotion, or suspension based on 
                    performance or misconduct

  (a) In General.--The Secretary may remove, demote, or suspend 
an individual who is an employee of the Department if the 
Secretary determines the performance or misconduct of the 
individual warrants such removal, demotion, or suspension. If 
the Secretary so removes, demotes, or suspends such an 
individual, the Secretary may--
          (1) remove the individual from the civil service (as 
        defined in section 2101 of title 5);
          (2) demote the individual by means of a reduction in 
        grade for which the individual is qualified, that the 
        Secretary determines is appropriate, and that reduces 
        the annual rate of pay of the individual; or
          (3) suspend the individual.
  (b) Pay of Certain Demoted Individuals.--(1) Notwithstanding 
any other provision of law, any individual subject to a 
demotion under subsection (a)(2) shall, beginning on the date 
of such demotion, receive the annual rate of pay applicable to 
such grade.
  (2) An individual so demoted may not be placed on 
administrative leave during the period during which an appeal 
(if any) under this section is ongoing, and may only receive 
pay if the individual reports for duty or is approved to use 
accrued unused annual, sick, family medical, military, or court 
leave. If an individual so demoted does not report for duty or 
receive approval to use accrued unused leave, such individual 
shall not receive pay or other benefits pursuant to subsection 
(e)(5).
  (c) Notice to Congress.--(1) Not later than 30 days after 
removing, demoting, or suspending an individual employed in a 
senior executive position under subsection (a) or after 
removing, demoting, or suspending an individual under chapter 
74 of this title, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees 
on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives 
and to each Member of Congress representing a district in the 
State or territory where the facility where the individual was 
employed immediately before being removed, demoted, or 
suspended is located notice in writing of such removal, 
demotion, or suspension. Such notice shall include the job 
title of the individual, the location where the individual was 
employed immediately before being removed, demoted, or 
suspended, the proposed action, and the reason for such 
removal, demotion, or suspension.
  (2) Not later than 30 days after the last day of a fiscal 
year, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives a report 
listing all removals, demotions, and suspensions under this 
section or under chapter 74 of this title during such fiscal 
year. Each such report shall include the job title of each 
individual removed, demoted, or suspended, the location where 
the individual was employed immediately before being so 
removed, demoted or suspended, the proposed action, and the 
reason for such removal, demotion, or suspension.
  (3) In this subsection, the term ``senior executive 
position'' means, with respect to a career appointee (as that 
term is defined in section 3132(a)(4) of title 5), a Senior 
Executive Service position (as such term is defined in section 
3132(a)(2) of title 5).
  (d) Procedure.--(1) Subsection (b) of section 7513 of title 5 
shall apply with respect to a removal, demotion, or suspension 
under this section, except that the period for notice and 
response, which includes the advance notice period required by 
paragraph (1) of such subsection and the response period 
required by paragraph (2) of such subsection, shall not exceed 
a total of 10 business days. Subsection (c) of such section and 
section 7121 of such title shall not apply with respect to such 
a removal, demotion, or suspension.
  (2) The Secretary shall issue a final decision with respect 
to a removal, demotion, or suspension under this section--
          (A) in the case of a proposed removal, demotion, or 
        suspension to which an individual responds under 
        paragraph (1), not later than five business days after 
        receiving the response of the individual; or
          (B) in the case of a proposed removal, demotion, or 
        suspension to which an individual does not respond, not 
        later than 15 business days after the Secretary 
        provides notice to the individual under paragraph (1).
  (3) The procedures under chapter 43 of title 5 shall not 
apply to a removal, demotion, or suspension under this section.
  (4)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B) and subsection (e), any 
removal, demotion, or suspension under subsection (a) may be 
appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which shall 
refer such appeal to an administrative judge pursuant to 
section 7701(b)(1) of title 5.
  (B) An appeal under subparagraph (A) of a removal, demotion, 
or suspension may only be made if such appeal is made not later 
than 7 days after the date of such removal, demotion, or 
suspension.
  (e) Expedited Review.--(1) Upon receipt of an appeal under 
subsection (d)(4)(A), the administrative judge shall expedite 
any such appeal under such section and, in any such case, shall 
issue a final and complete decision not later than 45 business 
days after the date of the appeal.
  (2) Notwithstanding section 7701(c)(1)(B) of title 5, the 
administrative judge shall uphold the decision of the Secretary 
to remove, demote, or suspend an employee under subsection (a) 
if the decision is supported by substantial evidence. If the 
decision of the Secretary is supported by substantial evidence, 
the administrative judge shall not mitigate the penalty 
prescribed by the Secretary.
  (3)(A) The decision of the administrative judge under 
paragraph (1) may be appealed to the Merit Systems Protection 
Board.
  (B) An appeal under subparagraph (A) of a decision of an 
administrative judge may only be made if such appeal is made 
not later than 7 business days after the date of the decision 
of the administrative judge.
  (4) In any case in which the administrative judge cannot 
issue a decision in accordance with the 45-day requirement 
under paragraph (1), the Merit Systems Protection Board shall, 
not later than 14 business days after the expiration of the 45-
day period, submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of 
the Senate and House of Representatives a report that explains 
the reasons why a decision was not issued in accordance with 
such requirement.
  (5)(A) A decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board under 
paragraph (3) may be appealed to the United States Court of 
Appeals for the Federal Circuit pursuant to section 7703 of 
title 5.
  (B) An appeal under subparagraph (A) of a decision of the 
Merit Systems Protection Board may only be made if such appeal 
is made not later than 7 business days after the date of the 
decision of the Board.
  (C) Any decision by such Court shall be in compliance with 
section 7462(f)(2) of this title.
  (6) The Merit Systems Protection Board may not stay any 
removal, demotion, under this section.
  (7) During the period beginning on the date on which an 
individual appeals a removal from the civil service under 
subsection (d) and ending on the date that the United States 
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issues a final 
decision on such appeal, such individual may not receive any 
pay, awards, bonuses, incentives, allowances, differentials, 
student loan repayments, special payments, or benefits related 
to the employment of the individual by the Department.
  (8) To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall 
provide to the Merit Systems Protection Board such information 
and assistance as may be necessary to ensure an appeal under 
this subsection is expedited.
  (9) If an employee prevails on appeal under this section, the 
employee shall be entitled to backpay (as provided in section 
5596 of title 5).
  (10) This subsection shall supercede any collective 
bargaining agreement to the extent that such an agreement 
conflicts with this subsection.
  (f) Whistleblower Protection.--(1) In the case of an 
individual seeking corrective action (or on behalf of whom 
corrective action is sought) from the Office of Special Counsel 
based on an alleged prohibited personnel practice described in 
section 2302(b) of title 5, the Secretary may not remove, 
demote, or suspend such individual under subsection (a) without 
the approval of the Special Counsel under section 1214(f) of 
title 5.
  (2) In the case of an individual who has filed a 
whistleblower complaint, as such term is defined in section 731 
of this title, the Secretary may not remove, demote, or suspend 
such individual under subsection (a) until a final decision 
with respect to the whistleblower complaint has been made.
  (g) Termination of Investigations by Office of Special 
Counsel.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the 
Special Counsel (established by section 1211 of title 5) may 
terminate an investigation of a prohibited personnel practice 
alleged by an employee or former employee of the Department 
after the Special Counsel provides to the employee or former 
employee a written statement of the reasons for the termination 
of the investigation. Such statement may not be admissible as 
evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding without 
the consent of such employee or former employee.
  (h) Vacancies.--In the case of an individual who is removed 
or demoted under subsection (a), to the maximum extent 
feasible, the Secretary shall fill the vacancy arising as a 
result of such removal or demotion.
  (i) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) The term ``individual'' means an individual 
        occupying a position at the Department but does not 
        include--
                  (A) an individual appointed pursuant to 
                section 7306, 7401(1), or 7405 of this title;
                  (B) an individual who has not completed a 
                probationary or trial period; or
                  (C) a political appointee.
          (2) The term ``suspend'' means the placing of an 
        employee, for disciplinary reasons, in a temporary 
        status without duties and pay for a period in excess of 
        14 days.
          (3) The term ``grade'' has the meaning given such 
        term in section 7511(a) of title 5.
          (4) The term ``misconduct'' includes neglect of duty, 
        malfeasance, or failure to accept a directed 
        reassignment or to accompany a position in a transfer 
        of function.
          (5) The term ``political appointee'' means an 
        individual who is--
                  (A) employed in a position described under 
                sections 5312 through 5316 of title 5 (relating 
                to the Executive Schedule);
                  (B) a limited term appointee, limited 
                emergency appointee, or noncareer appointee in 
                the Senior Executive Service, as defined under 
                paragraphs (5), (6), and (7), respectively, of 
                section 3132(a) of title 5; or
                  (C) employed in a position of a confidential 
                or policy-determining character under schedule 
                C of subpart C of part 213 of title 5 of the 
                Code of Federal Regulations.

Sec. 721. Reduction of benefits of employees convicted of certain 
                    crimes

  (a) Reduction of Annuity for Removed Employee.--(1) The 
Secretary shall order that the covered service of an employee 
of the Department removed from a position for performance or 
misconduct under section 719 or 7461 of this title or any other 
provision of law shall not be taken into account for purposes 
of calculating an annuity with respect to such individual under 
chapter 83 or chapter 84 of title 5, if--
          (A) the Secretary determines that the individual is 
        convicted of a felony that influenced the individual's 
        performance while employed in the position;
          (B) before such order is made, the individual is 
        afforded--
                  (i) notice of the proposed order; and
                  (ii) an opportunity to respond to the 
                proposed order by not later than ten business 
                days following receipt of such notice; and
          (C) the Secretary issues the order--
                  (i) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual responds under subparagraph 
                (B)(ii), not later than five business days 
                after receiving the response of the individual; 
                or
                  (ii) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual does not respond, not later than 
                15 business days after the Secretary provides 
                notice to the individual under subparagraph 
                (B)(i).
  (2) Upon the issuance of an order by the Secretary under 
paragraph (1), the individual shall have an opportunity to 
appeal the order to the Director of the Office of Personnel 
Management before the date that is seven business days after 
the date of such issuance.
  (3) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall 
make a final decision with respect to an appeal under paragraph 
(2) within 30 business days of receiving the appeal.
  (b) Reduction of Annuity for Retired Employee.--(1) The 
Secretary may order that the covered service of an individual 
who is removed for performance or misconduct under section 719 
or 7461 of this title or any other provision of law but who 
leaves employment at the Department prior to the issuance of a 
final decision with respect to such action shall not be taken 
into account for purposes of calculating an annuity with 
respect to such individual under chapter 83 or chapter 84 of 
title 5, if--
          (A) the Secretary determines that the individual is 
        convicted of a felony that influenced the individual's 
        performance while employed in the position;
          (B) before such order is made, the individual is 
        afforded--
                  (i) notice of the proposed order; and
                  (ii) opportunity to respond to the proposed 
                order by not later than ten business days 
                following receipt of such notice; and
          (C) the Secretary issues the order--
                  (i) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual responds under subparagraph 
                (B)(ii), not later than five business days 
                after receiving the response of the individual; 
                or
                  (ii) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual does not respond, not later than 
                15 business days after the Secretary provides 
                notice to the individual under subparagraph 
                (B)(i).
  (2) Upon the issuance of an order by the Secretary under 
paragraph (1), the individual shall have an opportunity to 
appeal the order to the Director of the Office of Personnel 
Management before the date that is seven business days after 
the date of such issuance.
  (3) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall 
make a final decision with respect to an appeal under paragraph 
(2) within 30 business days of receiving the appeal.
  (c) Administrative Requirements.--Not later than 37 business 
days after the Secretary issues a final order under subsection 
(a) or (b), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management 
shall recalculate the annuity of the individual.
  (d) Lump-sum Annuity Credit.--Any individual with respect to 
whom an annuity is reduced under subsection (a) or (b) shall be 
entitled to be paid so much of such individual's lump-sum 
credit as is attributable to the period of covered service.
  (e) Spouse or Children Exception.--The Secretary, in 
consultation with the Office of Personnel Management, shall 
prescribe regulations that may provide for the payment to the 
spouse or children of any individual referred to in subsection 
(a) or (b) of any amounts which (but for this subsection) would 
otherwise have been nonpayable by reason of such subsections. 
Any such regulations shall be consistent with the requirements 
of sections 8332(o)(5) and 8411(l)(5) of title 5, as the case 
may be.
  (f) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) The term ``covered service'' means, with respect 
        to an individual subject to a removal for performance 
        or misconduct under section 719 or 7461 of this title 
        or any other provision of law, the period of service 
        beginning on the date that the Secretary determines 
        under such applicable provision that the individual 
        engaged in activity that gave rise to such action and 
        ending on the date that the individual is removed from 
        or leaves a position of employment at the Department 
        prior to the issuance of a final decision with respect 
        to such action.
          (2) The term ``lump-sum credit'' has the meaning 
        given such term in section 8331(8) or section 8401(19) 
        of title 5, as the case may be.
          (3) The term ``service'' has the meaning given such 
        term in section 8331(12) or section 8401(26) of title 
        5, as the case may be.

Sec. 723. Recoupment of bonuses or awards paid to employees of 
                    Department

  (a) In General.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 
the Secretary may issue an order directing an employee of the 
Department to repay the amount, or a portion of the amount, of 
any award or bonus paid to the employee under title 5, 
including under chapter 45 or 53 of such title, or this title 
if--
          (1) the Secretary determines that the individual 
        engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to 
        payment of the award or bonus, and that such award or 
        bonus would not have been paid, in whole or in part, 
        had the misconduct or poor performance been known prior 
        to payment;
          (2) before such repayment, the employee is afforded--
                  (A) notice of the proposed order; and
                  (B) an opportunity to respond to the proposed 
                order by not later than ten business days after 
                the receipt of such notice; and
          (3) the Secretary issues the order--
                  (A) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual responds under paragraph (2)(B), 
                not later than five business days after 
                receiving the response of the individual; or
                  (B) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual does not respond, not later than 
                15 business days after the Secretary provides 
                notice to the individual under paragraph 
                (2)(A).
  (b) Appeals.--Upon the issuance of an order by the Secretary 
under subsection (a), the individual shall have an opportunity 
to appeal the order to another department or agency of the 
Federal Government before the date that is seven business days 
after the date of such issuance.
  (c) Final Decisions.--The head of the applicable department 
or agency of the Federal Government shall make a final decision 
with respect to an appeal under subsection (b) within 30 
business days after receiving such appeal.

Sec. 725. Recoupment of relocation expenses paid on behalf of employees 
                    of Department

  (a) In General.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 
the Secretary may issue an order directing an employee of the 
Department to repay the amount, or a portion of the amount, 
paid to or on behalf of the employee under title 5 for 
relocation expenses, including any expenses under section 5724 
or 5724a of such title, or this title if--
          (1) the Secretary determines that relocation expenses 
        were not lawfully authorized or that the employee 
        committed an act of fraud, waste, or malfeasance that 
        influenced the authorization of the relocation 
        expenses;
          (2) before such repayment, the employee is afforded--
                  (A) notice of the proposed order; and
                  (B) an opportunity to respond to the proposed 
                order not later than ten business days 
                following the receipt of such notice; and
          (3) the Secretary issues the order--
                  (A) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual responds under paragraph (2)(B), 
                not later than five business days after 
                receiving the response of the individual; or
                  (B) in the case of a proposed order to which 
                an individual does not respond, not later than 
                15 business days after the Secretary provides 
                notice to the individual under paragraph 
                (2)(A).
  (b) Appeals.--Upon the issuance of an order by the Secretary 
under subsection (a), the individual shall have an opportunity 
to appeal the order to another department or agency of the 
Federal Government before the date that is seven business days 
after the date of such issuance.
  (c) Final Decisions.--The head of the applicable department 
or agency of the Federal Government shall make a final decision 
with respect to an appeal under subsection (b) within 30 days 
after receiving such appeal.

SUBCHAPTER II--WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINTS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 733. Adverse actions against supervisory employees who commit 
                    prohibited personnel actions relating to 
                    whistleblower complaints

  (a) In General.--(1) In accordance with paragraph (2), the 
Secretary shall carry out the following adverse actions against 
supervisory employees (as defined in section 7103(a) of title 
5) whom the Secretary, an administrative judge, the Merit 
Systems Protection Board, the Office of Special Counsel, an 
adjudicating body provided under a union contract, a Federal 
judge, or the Inspector General of the Department determines 
committed a prohibited personnel action described in subsection 
(c):
          (A) With respect to the first offense, an adverse 
        action that is not less than a 12-day suspension and 
        not more than removal.
          (B) With respect to the second offense, removal.
  (2)(A) An employee against whom an adverse action under 
paragraph (1) is proposed is entitled to written notice.
  (B)(i) An employee who is notified under subparagraph (A) of 
being the subject of a proposed adverse action under paragraph 
(1) is entitled to [14 days] 10 days following such 
notification to answer and furnish evidence in support of the 
answer.
  (ii) If the employee does not furnish any such evidence as 
described in clause (i) or if the Secretary determines that 
such evidence is not sufficient to reverse the determination to 
propose the adverse action, the Secretary shall carry out the 
adverse action following such [14-day period] 10-day period.
  (C) Paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection (b) of section 7513 
of title 5, subsection (c) of such section, paragraphs (1) and 
(2) of subsection (b) of section 7543 of such title, and 
subsection (c) of such section shall not apply with respect to 
an adverse action carried out under paragraph (1).
  (b) Limitation on Other Adverse Actions.--With respect to a 
prohibited personnel action described in subsection (c), if the 
Secretary carries out an adverse action against a supervisory 
employee, the Secretary may carry out an additional adverse 
action under this section based on the same prohibited 
personnel action if the total severity of the adverse actions 
do not exceed the level specified in subsection (a).
  (c) Prohibited Personnel Action Described.--A prohibited 
personnel action described in this subsection is any of the 
following actions:
          (1) Taking or failing to take a personnel action in 
        violation of section 2302 of title 5 against an 
        employee relating to the employee--
                  (A) filing a whistleblower complaint in 
                accordance with section 732 of this title;
                  (B) filing a whistleblower complaint with the 
                Inspector General of the Department, the 
                Special Counsel, or Congress;
                  (C) providing information or participating as 
                a witness in an investigation of a 
                whistleblower complaint in accordance with 
                section 732 or with the Inspector General of 
                the Department, the Special Counsel, or 
                Congress;
                  (D) participating in an audit or 
                investigation by the Comptroller General of the 
                United States;
                  (E) refusing to perform an action that is 
                unlawful or prohibited by the Department; or
                  (F) engaging in communications that are 
                related to the duties of the position or are 
                otherwise protected.
          (2) Preventing or restricting an employee from making 
        an action described in any of subparagraphs (A) through 
        (F) of paragraph (1).
          (3) Conducting a negative peer review or opening a 
        retaliatory investigation because of an activity of an 
        employee that is protected by section 2302 of title 5.
          (4) Requesting a contractor to carry out an action 
        that is prohibited by section 4705(b) or section 
        4712(a)(1) of title 41, as the case may be.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


PART V--BOARDS, ADMINISTRATIONS, AND SERVICES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 74--VETERANS HEALTH ADMINISTRATION - PERSONNEL

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                       SUBCHAPTER I--APPOINTMENTS

Sec. 7401. Appointments in Veterans Health Administration

   There may be appointed by the Secretary such personnel as 
the Secretary may find necessary for the health care of 
veterans (in addition to those in the Office of the Under 
Secretary for Health appointed under section 7306 of this 
title), as follows:
          (1) Physicians, dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, 
        optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, 
        and expanded-function dental auxiliaries.
          (2) Scientific and professional personnel, such as 
        microbiologists, chemists, and biostatisticians.
          (3) Audiologists, licensed hearing aid specialists, 
        speech pathologists, and audiologist-speech 
        pathologists, biomedical engineers, certified or 
        registered respiratory therapists, dietitians, licensed 
        physical therapists, licensed practical or vocational 
        nurses, nurse assistants, medical instrument 
        technicians, medical records administrators or 
        specialists, medical records technicians, medical 
        technologists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, 
        nuclear medicine technologists, occupational 
        therapists, occupational therapy assistants, 
        kinesiotherapists, orthotist-prosthetists, pharmacists, 
        pharmacy technicians, physical therapy assistants, 
        prosthetic representatives, psychologists, diagnostic 
        radiologic technologists, therapeutic radiologic 
        technologists, social workers, marriage and family 
        therapists, licensed professional mental health 
        counselors, blind rehabilitation specialists, blind 
        rehabilitation outpatient specialists, and such other 
        classes of health care occupations as the Secretary 
        considers necessary for the recruitment and retention 
        needs of the Department subject to the following 
        requirements:
                  (A) Such other classes of health care 
                occupations--
                          (i) are not occupations relating to 
                        administrative, clerical, or physical 
                        plant maintenance and protective 
                        services;
                          (ii) would otherwise receive basic 
                        pay in accordance with the General 
                        Schedule under section 5332 of title 5;
                          (iii) provide, as determined by the 
                        Secretary, direct patient care services 
                        or services incident to direct patient 
                        services; and
                          (iv) would not otherwise be available 
                        to provide medical care or treatment 
                        for veterans.
                  (B) Not later than 45 days before the 
                Secretary appoints any personnel for a class of 
                health care occupations that is not 
                specifically listed in this paragraph, the 
                Secretary shall submit to the Committee on 
                Veterans' Affairs of the Senate, the Committee 
                on Veterans' Affairs of the House of 
                Representatives, and the Office of Management 
                and Budget notice of such appointment.
                  (C) Before submitting notice under 
                subparagraph (B), the Secretary shall solicit 
                comments from any labor organization 
                representing employees in such class and 
                include such comments in such notice.
          (4) Medical center directors and directors of 
        Veterans Integrated Service Networks with demonstrated 
        ability in the medical profession, in health care 
        administration, or in health care fiscal management.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 7404. Grades and pay scales

  (a)(1) The annual rates or ranges of rates of basic pay for 
positions provided in section 7306 and 7401(4) of this title 
shall be prescribed from time to time by Executive order as 
authorized by chapter 53 of title 5 or as otherwise authorized 
by law.
  (b) The grades for positions provided for in paragraph (1) of 
section 7401 of this title shall be as follows. The annual 
ranges of rates of basic pay for those grades shall be 
prescribed from time to time by Executive order as authorized 
by chapter 53 of title 5 or as otherwise authorized by law:
          PHYSICIAN AND DENTIST SCHEDULE
          Physician grade.
          Dentist grade.
          NURSE SCHEDULE
          Nurse V.
          Nurse IV.
          Nurse III.
          Nurse II.
          Nurse I.
          CLINICAL PODIATRIST, CHIROPRACTOR, AND OPTOMETRIST 
        SCHEDULE
          Chief grade.
          Senior grade.
          Intermediate grade.
          Full grade.
          Associate grade.
  (c) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 7425(a) of this 
title, a person appointed under section 7306 of this title who 
is not eligible for pay under subchapter III shall be deemed to 
be a career appointee for the purposes of sections 4507 and 
5384 of title 5.
  (d) Except as provided under subsection (e), subchapter III, 
and section 7457 of this title, pay for positions for which 
basic pay is paid under this section may not be paid at a rate 
in excess of the rate of basic pay authorized by section 5316 
of title 5 for positions in Level V of the Executive Schedule.
  (e) The position of Chief Nursing Officer, Office of Nursing 
Services, shall be exempt from the provisions of section 7451 
of this title and shall be paid at a rate determined by the 
Secretary, not to exceed the maximum rate established for the 
Senior Executive Service under section 5382 of title 5.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


          SUBCHAPTER V--DISCIPLINARY AND GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES

Sec. 7461. Adverse actions: section 7401(1) employees

  (a) Whenever the Under Secretary for Health (or an official 
designated by the Under Secretary for Health) brings charges 
based on conduct or performance against a section 7401(1) 
employee and as a result of those charges an adverse personnel 
action is taken against the employee, the employee shall have 
the right to appeal the action.
  (b)(1) If the case involves or includes a question of 
professional conduct or competence in which a major adverse 
action was taken, such an appeal shall be made to a 
Disciplinary Appeals Board under section 7462 of this title.
  [(2) In any other case, such an appeal shall be made--
          [(A) through Department grievance procedures under 
        section 7463 of this title, in any case that involves 
        or includes a question of professional conduct or 
        competence in which a major adverse action was not 
        taken or in any case of an employee who is not covered 
        by a collective bargaining agreement under chapter 71 
        of title 5; or
          [(B) through grievance procedures provided through 
        collective bargaining under chapter 71 of title 5 or 
        through Department grievance procedures under section 
        7463 of this title, as the employee elects, in the case 
        of an employee covered by a collective bargaining 
        agreement under chapter 71 of title 5 that does not 
        involve or include a question of professional conduct 
        or competence.]
  (2) In any case other than a case described in paragraph (1) 
that involves or includes a question of professional conduct or 
competence in which a major adverse action was not taken, such 
an appeal shall be made through Department grievance procedures 
under section 7463 of this title.
  (c) For purposes of this subchapter--
          (1) Section 7401(1) employees are employees of the 
        Department employed on a full-time basis under a 
        permanent appointment in a position listed in section 
        7401(1) of this title (other than interns and residents 
        appointed pursuant to section 7406 of this title).
          (2) A major adverse action is an adverse action which 
        includes any of the following:
                  (A) Suspension.
                  (B) Transfer.
                  (C) Reduction in grade.
                  (D) Reduction in basic pay.
                  (E) Discharge.
          (3) A question of professional conduct or competence 
        is a question involving any of the following:
                  (A) Direct patient care.
                  (B) Clinical competence.
  (d) An issue of whether a matter or question concerns, or 
arises out of, professional conduct or competence is not itself 
subject to any grievance procedure provided by law, regulation, 
or collective bargaining and may not be reviewed by any other 
agency.
  (e) Whenever the Secretary proposes to prescribe regulations 
under this subchapter, the Secretary shall publish the proposed 
regulations in the Federal Register for notice-and-comment not 
less than 30 days before the day on which they take effect.

Sec. 7462. Major adverse actions involving professional conduct or 
                    competence

  (a)(1) Disciplinary Appeals Boards appointed under section 
7464 of this title shall have exclusive jurisdiction to review 
any case--
          (A) which arises out of (or which includes) a 
        question of professional conduct or competence of a 
        section 7401(1) employee; and
          (B) in which a major adverse action was taken.
  (2) The board shall include in its record of decision in any 
mixed case a statement of the board's exclusive jurisdiction 
under this subsection and the basis for such exclusive 
jurisdiction.
  (3) For purposes of paragraph (2), a mixed case is a case 
that includes both a major adverse action arising out of a 
question of professional conduct or competence and an adverse 
action which is not a major adverse action or which does not 
arise out of a question of professional conduct or competence.
  (b)(1) In any case in which charges are brought against a 
section 7401(1) employee which arises out of, or includes, a 
question of professional conduct or competence which could 
result in a major adverse action, the employee is entitled to 
the following:
          (A) [At least 30] Ten business days advance written 
        notice from the Under Secretary for Health or other 
        charging official specifically stating the basis for 
        each charge, the adverse actions that could be taken if 
        the charges are sustained, and a statement of any 
        specific law, regulation, policy, procedure, practice, 
        or other specific instruction that has been violated 
        with respect to each charge, except that the 
        requirement for notification in advance may be waived 
        if there is reasonable cause to believe that the 
        employee has committed a crime for which the employee 
        may be imprisoned.
          (B) [A reasonable time, but not less than seven days] 
        The opportunity, within the ten-day notice period, to 
        present an answer [orally and] in writing to the Under 
        Secretary for Health or other deciding official, who 
        shall be an official higher in rank than the charging 
        official, and to submit affidavits and other 
        documentary evidence in support of the answer.
  (2) In any case described in paragraph (1), the employee is 
entitled to be represented by an attorney or other 
representative of the employee's choice at all stages of the 
case.
  (3)[(A) If a proposed adverse action covered by this section 
is not withdrawn] After considering the employee's answer, if 
any, the deciding official shall render a decision in writing 
within [21 days] 5 business days of receipt by the deciding 
official of the employee's [answer. The decision shall include 
a statement of] answer stating the specific reasons for the 
decision with respect to each charge. If a major adverse action 
is imposed, the decision shall state whether any of the charges 
sustained arose out of a question of professional conduct or 
competence. If any of the charges are sustained, the notice of 
the decision to the employee shall include notice of the 
employee's rights of appeal.
  [(B) Notwithstanding the 21-day period specified in 
subparagraph (A), a proposed adverse action may be held in 
abeyance if the employee requests, and the deciding official 
agrees, that the employee shall seek counseling or treatment 
for a condition covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 
Any such abeyance of a proposed action may not extend for more 
than one year.]
  (4)[(A) The Secretary may require that any answer and 
submission under paragraph (1)(B) be submitted so as to be 
received within 30 days of the date of the written notice of 
the charges, except that the Secretary shall allow the granting 
of extensions for good cause shown.]
  [(B) The Secretary] The Secretary shall require that any 
appeal to a Disciplinary Appeals Board from a decision to 
impose a major adverse action shall be received within [30 
days] 7 business days after the date of service of the written 
decision on the employee.
  (c)(1) When a Disciplinary Appeals Board convenes to consider 
an appeal in a case under this section, the board, before 
proceeding to consider the merits of the appeal, shall 
determine whether the case is properly before it.
  (2) Upon hearing such an appeal, the board shall, with 
respect to each charge appealed to the board, sustain the 
charge, dismiss the charge, or sustain the charge in part and 
dismiss the charge in part. If the deciding official is 
sustained (in whole or in part) with respect to any such 
charge, the board shall--
          (A) approve the action as imposed;
          (B) approve the action with modification, reduction, 
        or exception; or
          (C) reverse the action.
  (3) A board shall afford an employee appealing an adverse 
action under this section an opportunity for an oral hearing. 
If such a hearing is held, the hearing must be concluded not 
later than 30 business days after the date on which the appeal 
is filed, and the board shall provide the employee with a 
transcript of the hearing.
  (4) The board shall render a decision in any case within [45 
days] 15 business days of completion of the hearing, if there 
is a hearing, and in any event no later than [120 days] 45 
business days after the appeal commenced.
  (d)(1) After resolving any question as to whether a matter 
involves professional conduct or competence, the Secretary 
shall cause to be executed the decision of the Disciplinary 
Appeals Board in a timely manner and in any event in not more 
than [90 days] 15 business days after the decision of the Board 
is received by the Secretary. Pursuant to the board's decision, 
the Secretary may order reinstatement, award back pay, and 
provide such other remedies as the board found appropriate 
relating directly to the proposed action, including expungement 
of records relating to the action.
  (e) The Secretary may designate an employee of the Department 
to represent management in any case before a Disciplinary 
Appeals Board.
  (f)(1) A section 7401(1) employee adversely affected by a 
final order or decision of a Disciplinary Appeals Board (as 
reviewed by the Secretary) may obtain judicial review of the 
order or decision.
  (2) In any case in which judicial review is sought under this 
subsection, the court shall review the record and hold unlawful 
and set aside any agency action, finding, or conclusion found 
to be--
          (A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or 
        otherwise not in accordance with law;
          (B) obtained without procedures required by law, 
        rule, or regulation having been followed; or
          (C) unsupported by substantial evidence.

Sec. 7463. Other adverse actions

  (a) The Secretary shall prescribe by regulation procedures 
for the consideration of grievances of section 7401(1) 
employees arising from adverse personnel actions in which each 
action taken either--
          (1) is not a major adverse action; or
          (2) does not arise out of a question of professional 
        conduct or competence.
Disciplinary Appeals Boards shall not have jurisdiction to 
review such matters, other than as part of a mixed case (as 
defined in section 7462(a)(3) of this title).
  [(b) In the case of an employee who is a member of a 
collective bargaining unit under chapter 71 of title 5, the 
employee may seek review of an adverse action described in 
subsection (a) either under the grievance procedures provided 
through regulations prescribed under subsection (a) or through 
grievance procedures determined through collective bargaining, 
but not under both. The employee shall elect which grievance 
procedure to follow. Any such election may not be revoked.]
  [(c)] (b)(1) In any case in which charges are brought against 
a section 7401(1) employee which could result in a major 
adverse action and which do not involve professional conduct or 
competence, the employee is entitled to the same notice and 
opportunity to answer with respect to those charges as provided 
in subparagraphs (A) and (B) of section 7462(b)(1) of this 
title.
  (2) In any other case in which charges are brought against a 
section 7401(1) employee, the employee is entitled to--
          (A) [an advance] ten business days written notice 
        stating the specific reason for the proposed action, 
        and
          (B) [a reasonable time] the opportunity, within the 
        ten business day notice period, to answer [orally and] 
        in writing and to furnish affidavits and other 
        documentary evidence in support of the answer.
  [(d)] (c) Grievance procedures prescribed under subsection 
(a) shall include the following:
          (1) A right to formal review by an impartial examiner 
        within the Department of Veterans Affairs, who, in the 
        case of an adverse action arising from a question of 
        professional conduct or competence, shall be selected 
        from the panel designated under section 7464 of this 
        title.
          (2) A right to a prompt report of the findings and 
        recommendations by the impartial examiner.
          (3) A right to a prompt review of the examiner's 
        findings and recommendations by an official of a higher 
        level than the official who decided upon the action. 
        That official may accept, modify, or reject the 
        examiner's recommendations.
  [(e)] (d) In any review of an adverse action under the 
grievance procedures prescribed under subsection (a), the 
employee is entitled to be represented by an attorney or other 
representative of the employee's choice at all stages of the 
case.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                              ----------                              


                      TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
PART III--EMPLOYEES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBPART C--EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 43--PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER I--GENERAL PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 4303. Actions based on unacceptable performance

  (a) Subject to the provisions of this section, an agency may 
reduce in grade or remove an employee for unacceptable 
performance.
  (b)(1) An employee whose reduction in grade or removal is 
proposed under this section is entitled to--
          (A) 30 days' advance written notice of the proposed 
        action which identifies--
                  (i) specific instances of unacceptable 
                performance by the employee on which the 
                proposed action is based; and
                  (ii) the critical elements of the employee's 
                position involved in each instance of 
                unacceptable performance;
          (B) be represented by an attorney or other 
        representative;
          (C) a reasonable time to answer orally and in 
        writing; and
          (D) a written decision which--
                  (i) in the case of a reduction in grade or 
                removal under this section, specifies the 
                instances of unacceptable performance by the 
                employee on which the reduction in grade or 
                removal is based, and
                  (ii) unless proposed by the head of the 
                agency, has been concurred in by an employee 
                who is in a higher position than the employee 
                who proposed the action.
  (2) An agency may, under regulations prescribed by the head 
of such agency, extend the notice period under subsection 
(b)(1)(A) of this section for not more than 30 days. An agency 
may extend the notice period for more than 30 days only in 
accordance with regulations issued by the Office of Personnel 
Management.
  (c) The decision to retain, reduce in grade, or remove an 
employee--
          (1) shall be made within 30 days after the date of 
        expiration of the notice period, and
          (2) in the case of a reduction in grade or removal, 
        may be based only on those instances of unacceptable 
        performance by the employee--
                  (A) which occurred during the 1-year period 
                ending on the date of the notice under 
                subsection (b)(1)(A) of this section in 
                connection with the decision; and
                  (B) for which the notice and other 
                requirements of this section are complied with.
  (d) If, because of performance improvement by the employee 
during the notice period, the employee is not reduced in grade 
or removed, and the employee's performance continues to be 
acceptable for 1 year from the date of the advance written 
notice provided under subsection (b)(1)(A) of this section, any 
entry or other notation of the unacceptable performance for 
which the action was proposed under this section shall be 
removed from any agency record relating to the employee.
  (e) Any employee who is--
          (1) a preference eligible;
          (2) in the competitive service; or
          (3) in the excepted service and covered by subchapter 
        II of chapter 75,
and who has been reduced in grade or removed under this section 
is entitled to appeal the action to the Merit Systems 
Protection Board under section 7701.
  (f) This section does not apply to--
          (1) the reduction to the grade previously held of a 
        supervisor or manager who has not completed the 
        probationary period under section 3321(a)(2) of this 
        title,
          (2) the reduction in grade or removal of an employee 
        in the competitive service who is serving a 
        probationary or trial period under an initial 
        appointment or who has not completed 1 year of current 
        continuous employment under other than a temporary 
        appointment limited to 1 year or less, [or]
          (3) the reduction in grade or removal of an employee 
        in the excepted service who has not completed 1 year of 
        current continuous employment in the same or similar 
        positions[.], or
          (4) any removal or demotion under section 719 of 
        title 38.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    We have serious concerns over H.R. 1259, particularly 
sections 3 and 9. We believe this bill, although claiming to 
provide additional means of accountability to the Department of 
Veterans Affairs (VA) would, in practice, make it more 
difficult to achieve substantive accountability while 
exacerbating VA's culture of whistleblower retaliation and a 
toxic work environment that allows poorly performing managers 
to retaliate against frontline VA employees. Sections 3 and 9 
would strip VA employees of some of their very basic 
protections under collective bargaining agreements that ensure 
all employees are treated fairly by management. This would 
allow for the disparate treatment of VA employees compared to 
other federal employees, aggravating VA's recruitment and 
retention challenge. Almost one third of VA employees are 
veterans, and it is unfair to treat them differently that other 
federal employees. With an employee shortage of over 47,000, 
the Committee's work should be focused on creating an 
environment that attracts talented, hardworking, employees 
passionate about delivering care and benefits to our veterans. 
In addition, we dissent over the failure of this Committee to 
consider this bill under regular order, and the rush to bring 
this bill to a full Committee markup with only 48 hours to 
review the legislation.
    We strongly agree with the need for greater accountability 
at the VA, and VA's inability to follow its own laws and 
policies to discipline employees is unacceptable. If managers 
are making poor decisions or failing, they need to be held 
accountable instead of being able to shift blame to hard-
working frontline employees. The VA employees we have 
subpoenaed before this Committee that VA has failed to hold 
accountable due to process-fouls were not assisted by unions or 
permitted to use collective bargaining grievance procedures.
    Section 3 of H.R. 1259, covering VA employees under title 5 
federal employment law, would remove employees' union-
negotiated alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and 
grievance procedures with respect to removal, demotion or 
suspension greater than 14-days. It would only permit VA 
employees to use statutory procedures that would reduce the 
time period for an employee to respond to allegations of poor 
performance or misconduct, and reduce the time period to appeal 
a disciplinary action before the Merit Systems Protection 
Board. It would also supersede any collective bargaining 
agreement-negotiated grievance or review procedures provided 
for federal employees under the law--reducing employees' due 
process rights. In effect, without collective bargaining 
procedures to protect rank and file employees, bad managers 
would be emboldened to use these new statutory procedures as 
weapons against the employees who dare to speak up or blow the 
whistle, knowing that those employees would have few 
protections.
    Section 9 would strip VA healthcare providers of the 
ability to elect collective bargaining-negotiated grievance 
procedures in all cases involving a question of professional 
conduct or competence--no matter how minor. Currently under 
VA's own title 38 employment laws, healthcare providers are 
permitted to grieve disciplinary actions under collective 
bargaining procedures in minor cases, and in major cases 
subject to removal, demotion, or suspension if the case does 
not involve a question of professional conduct or competence. 
Section 9 would strip away these rights from the frontline 
providers charged with the vital mission of providing 
healthcare to veterans.
    Furthermore, this bill was not considered through regular 
order, and rushed to a full Committee markup. The Majority 
missed a key opportunity to develop bipartisan legislation that 
will truly bring accountability to the VA. This legislation 
significantly departed from ``accountability'' legislation 
considered last congress. Committee members were given only 48 
hours to review the legislation. It did not receive a 
legislative hearing. Without input from stakeholders and who 
would be responsible for implementing the procedures under this 
bill, we were denied an opportunity to understand some of the 
potentially unforeseen consequences of enacting such 
legislation into law.
    This is why we supported three amendments during the full 
Committee markup that would have given us additional 
opportunities to hold poorly performing employees accountable 
and continue to protect frontline employees' collective 
bargaining rights. One amendment would have given the VA an 
additional tool to hold employees accountable under bipartisan 
legislation vetted by Veteran Service Organizations, the VA, 
and other important stakeholders last congress. Another 
amendment would have restored key protections for frontline 
employees. The last amendment would have allowed the VA to 
immediately remove an employee from the workplace who threatens 
the public health and safety of veterans, allowing us more time 
to work together as a Committee to develop bipartisan 
accountability legislation. Unfortunately, the Majority 
rejected these common-sense, pragmatic proposals to increase 
accountability quickly at the VA. We remain committed to 
working together to ensure veterans come first.

                                           Timothy J. Walz.
                                           Julia Brownley.
                                           Mark Takano.
                                           Kathleen M. Rice.
                                           Ann M. Kuster.
                                           Elizabeth H. Esty.

                                  [all]