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Legislation Would Improve GI Bill, Other VA Services

06-27-23 WR VA Bills WEBSITE
06-27-23 WR VA Bills WEBSITE
Washington Report

NGAUS supports two new bills that aim to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs’ programs and services.

The first bill is the Veterans Education Oversight Expansion Act (H.R. 3981), which would broaden VA supervision of schools that take GI Bill education benefits. Reps. Morgan McGarvey, D-Ky., and Mike Levin, D-Calif., introduced the measure in the House.

H.R. 3981 would also restore a veteran’s education benefits if an educational entity is found to have acted "maliciously."

"We all succeed when our veterans can access the education benefits they have earned," McGarvey said in a June 22 press release. "No veteran should worry that the program they’re enrolled in is fraudulent, subpar or otherwise inadequate."

"Too many National Guardsmen and other veterans have lost their hard-earned educational benefits to dishonest organizations," said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president.

"We owe them better oversight," Robinson added. "And they deserve to see their benefits returned when they are wronged. The Veterans Education Oversight Expansion Act goes a long way toward ensuring a great program fulfills its promise."

The legislation is also backed by multiple veterans service organizations. More information about H.R. 3981 is available here.

The second bill NGAUS supports is the Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act, which would enable the agency to fire or demote problematic employees more easily.

Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the legislation in the Senate. Moran is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced a companion bill in the House.

"While the VA employs some of the finest men and women, it only takes a few bad employees to disrupt the culture and service at the VA, which negatively impacts veterans," Moran said in a June 23 press release from his committee staff.

"Veterans are best served when VA leaders have the ability to swiftly take action to remove bad employees in order to maintain a healthy workplace and, more importantly, provide quality services for our veterans," he added.

According to the June 23 press release, the three senators say the Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act bolsters the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that Congress passed in 2017.

Congress passed the law "in response to the nationwide VA access crisis that exposed a toxic workforce culture at the VA," per the press release.

The legislation "gave VA leaders the ability to break through the bureaucracy and hold bad employees accountable," the release added.

But recent federal rulings have rendered the authority provided by the 2017 law unusable for most of the VA's workforce.

In March, VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced that he would stop using disciplinary authorities approved in 2017 because of legal challenges to the measures.

VA officials have since argued that other authorities allow for properly managing and punishing the agency's staff.

But the Restore Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act's authors disagree.

NGAUS, along with the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, concur with the legislation.

"We must right wrongs and dismiss bad actors when they are identified," Robinson said. "This bill is a positive step in restoring VA accountability and improving services."

More information about the bill is available here.

— By John Goheen