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Senators Introduce The VA's ‘Best Chance’ At Reform
A group of bipartisan senators with a history of work on veterans issues have introduced comprehensive legislation aimed at reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs’ accountability procedures.
This new measure, sponsored by Sens. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia; Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida; and Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, would allow poorly performing VA employees to be more easily terminated, and allow for the government to recoup bonuses paid to those employees.
It would also give the secretary of the VA the authority to reprimand or fire a VA executive in a “21-day internal department grievance process.” Other VA employees would have a review process of no more than 180 days. From Military Times:
“The legislation also includes language which would allow VA leaders to claw back employee bonuses or relocation expenses, or reduce a former employee’s pension, if they are convicted of a felony related to their job. VA leaders in recent years have maintained they have no current authority to take those kinds of punitive actions.
Under the bill, VA leaders would be required to provide more training on whistleblower rights and be prohibited from firing employees who have filed complaints through official channels."
“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio said in a statement on May 11. “We must make real changes that put the well-being of our service members before the best interests of bureaucrats.”
This could be easier said than done, as a federal appeals court recently struck down legislation that shortened the appeals process for senior VA executives, ruling that it violated those workers’ protections.
The proposed legislation “represents lawmakers’ best chance at sweeping department reforms since the wake of the 2014 VA wait times scandal,” according to Military Times.
That scandal rocked the veterans community and led to the resignation of retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, then the VA secretary. A big part of the issue that led to the scandal was the VA’s limited ability to fire poor employees.
"This bipartisan bill will hold bad employees accountable while protecting the hardworking folks who are responsible for serving veterans," said Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "The challenges at the VA are many, but tough problems require commonsense solutions and this bipartisan bill is a product of what happens when you put aside politics and work together."
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.
Nine years after losing both legs in Afghanistan, he's found purpose in family, friends and inspiring others
There's a joke that Joey Jones likes to use when he feels the need to ease the tension in a room or in his own head.
To calm himself down, he uses it to remind himself of the obstacles he's had to overcome. When he faces challenges today — big or small — it brings him back to a time when the stakes were higher.
Jones will feel out a room before using the line. For nearly a decade, Jones, 33, has told his story to thousands of people, given motivational speeches to NFL teams and acted alongside a three-time Academy Award-winning actor.
On Tuesday afternoon, he stood at the front of a classroom at his alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School in Georgia. The room was crowded with about 30 honor students.
It took about 20 minutes, but Jones started to get more comfortable as the room warmed up to him. A student asked about how he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"I believe in post-traumatic growth," Jones said. "That means you go through tough and difficult situations and on the back end through recovery, you learn strength."
It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.
It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.
"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.
ROCKFORD — Delta Force sniper Sgt. First Class James P. McMahon's face was so badly battered and cut, "he looked like he was wearing a fright mask" as he stood atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter and pulled free the body of a fellow soldier from the wreckage.
That's the first description of McMahon in the book by journalist Mark Bowden called "Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War." It is a detailed account of the horrific Battle of the Black Sea fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993. It claimed the lives of 18 elite American soldiers.