Boehner: Make It Easier to Fire VA Execs

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, joined a chorus of Republican lawmakers Thursday in supporting legislation that would make it easier to fire senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department, saying the agency is “failing veterans.”

Boehner promised a vote “soon” on the 2014 VA Management Accountability Act, which would allow the VA secretary to terminate or demote any employees in the Senior Executive Service. The Republican leader argued the current agency structure encourages bonuses and promotions without any attachment to performance.

“I thought I had seen the worst in government, but this goes beyond the pale,” Boehner said. “If you’re presiding over a bureaucracy that’s failing veterans, you shouldn’t be receiving bonuses. You should be gone.”

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who authored the bill and chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, also pushed the bill during the press conference Thursday.

“We cannot continue to promote people who have not done their jobs and give them bonuses even when there have been preventable deaths at their facilities,” Miller said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who introduced the bill in the Senate, was careful to praise the VA workforce, but said an agency as important as VA should be held to the same accountability standards as private sector companies and congressional offices.

“The enormous and vast majority of the 300,000 who work at this agency work hard and do a great job,” Rubio said. “But like any organization, there’s going to be breakdowns. And when there are, people need to be held accountable, especially at the senior management level.”

Federal employee advocates have voiced stark opposition to the bill, saying it is counterproductive to improving the VA.

“Not only is this bill a solution in search of a problem, it is unfair and does not further the goal that we all share to ensure the highest quality care for our nation’s veterans,” said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, when the bill was released. She added the measure would hurt many of the people it was intended to protect, as one-third of VA employees are themselves veterans, and said the bill was “largely driven by optics,” rather than good policy.

In a January letter to Miller, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the department’s appraisal program is tied closely to performance and the agency already possesses “sufficient authority to take swift action” to hold employees accountable. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.