President Donald Trump signed a bill into law Friday that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.
The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The story quickly became a national concern, as other VA facilities, including the VA Medical Center in North Las Vegas, revealed that veterans also faced sometimes extremely long waits for medical appointments.
At Friday’s White House signing ceremony, Trump called the incident “a national disgrace.”
“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” he said.
The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
It also requires the VA to evaluate supervisors based on protection of whistle-blowers, and prohibits bonuses for employees who have been found guilty of wrongdoing.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a co-sponsor of the bill, applauded Trump for signing it into law.
“I will continue to work with veterans in our state to identify problems and develop solutions that will improve the care and strengthen the benefits our veterans expect and deserve,” he said in a statement.
Federal employee unions opposed the measure.
VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, and many veterans groups supported it.
Contact Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308. Follow @KeithRogers2 on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.