Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., unveiled the Senate version of the bill.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., unveiled the Senate version of the bill. Alex Brandon / AP

Group Launches Ad Campaign to Ease Firing of Federal Employees

Ads will pressure Congress to act on accountability legislation.

A conservative veterans advocacy group is creating a new ad campaign to pressure Congress to enact legislation that would ease the firing of federal employees.

The campaign, run by Concerned Veterans for America, will target 29 House Democrats and one House Republican who could cast key votes on the 2017 VA Accountability First Act. Democrats on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, as well those who voted for similar legislation in the previous Congress, are among those representing areas in which the ads will run online. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who chairs the veterans committee, introduced the bill last week, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., putting forward companion legislation in the Senate. CVA declined to disclose the money behind the campaign, but a spokeswoman called it a "significant investment" that would put "serious pressure" on the targeted members.

“Fraud. Abuse. Veterans dying on wait lists,” the ad narrator says. “American heroes deserve better, but our veterans are suffering at the hands of bad VA employees.”

Roe and Rubio’s bill would give the VA secretary expedited removal authority, meaning any employee fired by the secretary would be out of a job and off the department’s rolls that day. Any employee facing removal, suspension of at least 14 days or a demotion would receive advance notice of 10 days, and the secretary would have five days in which to rebut any response the employee comes up with in that time. Those employees would maintain appeal rights to the Merit Systems Protection Board and U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The bill would allow VA to reduce employees’ pensions if they are convicted of a felony that affected their job and to recoup bonuses and relocation expenses in some circumstances. Employees facing those penalties would also be entitled to an appeal.

The measure would create “new reforms that will hold bad employees accountable and cut undeserved bonuses,” the ad declares. “Reforms that get bad VA employees out -- for good.”

“The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 would make it easier to fire employees who engage in misconduct and give the new VA secretary the tools he needs to improve the troubled department,” said CVA Director of Policy Dan Caldwell. Veterans deserve the highest standard of care possible, and right now, our government is failing them.”

Part of the campaign by CVA, a group that has received criticism from other veterans service organizations and employee unions for its ties to the Koch brothers, is launching a digital tool that allows individuals to voice their support for the bill to their representatives.

The House approved a similar bill late last year with a veto-proof majority, though the measure stalled in the Senate. Roe’s committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Wednesday. 

This story has been updated to reflect the party breakdown of the targeted members.

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