President Trump signed legislation Friday designed to protect whistleblowers while making it easier to fire problem employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017” makes permanent an office created by a Trump executive order earlier this year to look into claims made by whistleblowers and to protect them from retaliation.
It also shortens the timeframes allowed for employee appeals of disciplinary actions and mandates that courts reviewing the actions uphold them if there is “substantial evidence” they are warranted.
Trump referenced the VA wait time scandal in 2014, when veterans died waiting for appointments, and some VA workers who put them on secret wait lists weren’t disciplined because of federal employment laws.
“What happened was a national disgrace, and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” he said. “Today, we are finally changing those laws.”
The new law marks the second time Congress is trying to short-circuit the disciplinary process. The Choice Act passed in 2014 sought to do away with senior executives’ rights to appeal discipline to the Merit Systems Protection Board.