U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) voted for a bill he cosponsored that would allow the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to remove senior executives and high-ranking employees for poor performance.
The House passed the bill by an overwhelming margin Wednesday evening.
"Bureaucracy should never harm our nation's heroes," Cooper said. "These problems are inexcusable."
The vote followed a wave of reports of rampant mismanagement at the VA, including news that a top official in Nashville ran up $140,000 in unauthorized travel expenses while a backlog of claims piled up.
Weeks ago, Cooper sent two letters that probed the case of the rogue Nashville official as well as "secret waiting lists" in Phoenix that prevented veterans from getting timely care. Cooper is awaiting responses to both letters.
The bipartisan bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act would give Sec. Eric Shinseki authority to quickly remove employees of the Senior Executive Service (SES) whose performance warrants removal. According to the Office of Personnel and Management, the SES includes most managerial, supervisory and policy positions classified above General Schedule positions.
Under the bill, SES employees could be removed from government service completely or transferred to a lesser position within the current civil service system.
The ability to remove such an employee is modeled after the same authority that Members of Congress have to remove staff members who work for them.
The bill has received letters of support from top advocates for veterans, including IAVA, AMVETS, The American Legion, Concerned Veterans of America and the Reserve Officers Association.