Today, H.R. 5948, the Veterans Fiduciary Reform and Honoring Notable Service Act, passed the House of Representatives by voice vote. Congressman Roe's legislation, H.R. 4481, the Veterans' Affairs Employee Accountability Act (VAEA), was included as a provision of H.R. 5948.
Roe released the following statement on the inclusion of H.R. 4481 in the legislation:
"I am pleased the House is acting today to stop a wasteful practice that was uncovered by Veterans' Affairs Committee oversight," Roe said. "My legislation is a simple bill that would prohibit any employee of the VA that knowingly violates civil law from receiving a bonus."
Roe introduced this legislation in response to a series of Veterans' Affairs Committee hearings that uncovered a serious problem with the VA's contracting procedures. Employees that knowingly violate civil contracts are not only avoiding punishment, some of them are actually receiving annual bonuses.
For example, several instances were identified where VA employees went outside the Department's Prime Contract to purchase certain pharmaceuticals, which by the VA's own admission exceeded these officials' authority and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. VA officials downplayed the illegality of these actions, which were in direct violation of the Federal Authorization Regulation (FAR), by describing them as "improper" or "mistakes." Rather than penalizing or reprimanding these employees, it appears VA senior officials paid these employees some form of a bonus, further highlighting the lack of internal contracting oversight at the VA.
The VAEA Act directs Secretary Shinseki to ensure that if an employee at the VA knowingly breaks civil law covered by the Federal Acquisition Regulation, that employee cannot receive a bonus for or during that year. The term bonus is defined as a: retention incentive, retention incentive payment, retention incentive aware or any other reward requiring approval from any office within the VA which approves these bonuses.