Trump signs VA reform bill, making good on a campaign promise

U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington (back row, third from right) was on hand Friday when President Donald Trump signed a bill Arrington co-sponsored created to make the Department of Veterans Affairs more accountable for veterans' health care.

The law had bipartisan support in Congress but faced opposition from unions representing VA employees, who warned that the new provisions could make it easier for management to retaliate against employees for political reasons.

Numerous country's major veterans groups are supportive of the plan, which is seen as a legislative compromise after years of debate over how to address systemic problems at the department while also incorporating protections for federal workers. The U.S. House passed it 368-55. Those entrusted with this sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide. "And we have an obligation to get it right for them when they return home", said Lauren Mehta, police and advocacy director for Wounded Warrior Project.

In reality, it is the first step of many reforms that the men hope will better serve the nation's more than 20 million veterans.

"I also want to express our appreciation for Secretary Shulkin, who is implementing the dramatic reform throughout the VA", Trump said, before appearing to divert from his prepared remarks. That's why we are where we are now, i.e. on the verge of another major change of direction in health care policy.

In simplest terms, Trump is making it easier for the government to say "You're fired!" to employees that contribute to problems that led to the 2014 Veterans Affairs scandal, in which 40 veterans died waiting for care at a Phoenix facility, according to CNN.

"I believe to be able to move people out who have lost their way is going to be part of the solution in fixing the VA", Shulkin said at a forum hosted by the George W. Bush Institute, which was moderated by Politico.

Also, employees who commit felonies that affect their work can have their retirement benefits reduced.

Trump promised during the campaign to dismiss VA workers "who let our veterans down".

President Trump's decision to sign this bill into law is just the latest in a serious of actions the president has taken to protect veterans. Regular employees have an appeal process of no more than 180 days.

Arkansas' two US senators, John Boozman of Rogers and Tom Cotton of Dardanelle, were among those standing behind Trump as he signed the bill into law Friday.

  • Larry Hoffman