Most federal employees seek to know the best date to retire so that they can do the financial planning well. But it seems that they will need to plan ahead as firing federal employees has become easy thanks to a newly approved legislation. The employees of the Veterans Affairs Department are the ones being more affected by this change. Democrats tried very hard to halt this bill which they think is unfairly targeting the rank-and-file employees.
Legislation that Makes Firing Federal Employees Easy
The legislation that makes firing federal employees easy was approved by a House committee. It will now hasten the disciplinary process going on at the Veterans Affairs Department. This legislation was pushed back by the Democrats, and they opined that this legislation is unfairly targeting all the rank-and-file employees.
Republicans vs. Democrats
This legislation is the latest effort made by Republicans to make firing federal employees easy and boost the accountability at the VA. The Republicans have tried to expedite the firings and suspensions at the department since an initial reform effort initiated in the year 2014 ran into legal trouble. Democrats, on the other hand, insisted that they were for getting rid of problem employees in VA, but they thought that the Republicans led plan would not address the root of the issue in a proper manner.
Hurting a Few Employees
The author of VA Accountability First Act and the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. started off the markup by addressing the expected criticisms. He stated that the measure was not an attack on the rights of the workers, but it was an effort to grant the request made by VA Secretary David Shulkin. Shulkin had sought to dismiss employees when he comes across very few bad employees.
Roe stated that he did not agree with the argument that the bill would impact recruiting and retention in a negative manner as bad employees usually hurt the morale of the rest of the workforce. While noting a common refrain from detractors of firing reform, Roe mentioned that the measure would not hurt a large number of veterans who work at the department.
Roe is a veteran himself, and he opined that veterans don’t agree to serve in any role because they put special employee protections ahead of a mission as the mission always comes first.
Eliminating the Grievance Process
The main sticking point of the legislation that makes firing federal employees easy was the elimination of the union grievance process that is available to all the represented employees as a way to appeal adverse personnel actions. Roe highlighted that the unions represent 76 percent of the VA workforce and his intention was to reform the process for more than just a quarter of employees of the department. Roe added that leaving the grievance process open would create a gigantic loophole for increased accountability. He also pointed out that the completion of the grievance process takes up to 350 days to complete.
Another ranking member of the committee, Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn, stated that VA must follow the laws that were put in place after collective bargaining agreements.
Democrats had proposed some amendments to reform the legislation that makes firing federal employees easy, but all those efforts failed. Walz has cautioned that the latest accountability legislation would fail to pass in the Senate. He even offered a compromise bill that was championed in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last year and had got bipartisan support. Among the other amendments that failed, there was a plan from Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. He proposed allowing the VA Secretary to suspend troublesome employees without pay while an investigation into alleged misconduct was done.
Scandals of the Past
Roe did not hesitate in pointing out that anyone who was standing against this bill that makes firing federal employees easy was supporting an antiquated system that was mainly responsible for the scandals that occurred in the past.
The Expedited Removal Authority
Roe’s bill would give expedited removal authority to the VA secretary which means that any employee fired by the Secretary would be out of the job and off the rolls of the department that day. Any employee who is facing removal or suspension of at least 14 days or a demotion would get a notice of 10 days, and the secretary would have five days to rebut any response an employee comes up with during that time. Those employees would maintain appeal rights to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Apart from making firing federal employees easier, this bill would also allow VA to reduce the pensions of employees if the employee is convicted of a felony that affected the job and it will also let VA recoup bonuses and relocation expenses in a few cases. Federal employees facing these kinds of penalties would also be entitled to an appeal so that they can retire when it is the best date to retire for them, and they can meet their financial planning goals rather than being chucked out unceremoniously.