Veterans Affairs Needs to Clean Up Its Management

Nov 17, 2017

affairsThe VA Management Alignment Act would require the department to report to Congress on its organizational structure, including details on the “roles, responsibility, and accountability” of its “elements and individuals”. This report would also include results from previous studies, such as two assessments required by the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. Findings from one of these reports found the Veterans’ Health Administrations structure “intensely, unnecessarily complex”.

For years, the VA has landed on the Government Accountability Offices’ high-risk list due to deficiencies in “inadequate oversight and accountability” and “inadequate training”. Since these findings were first released in 2014, the VA’s inspector general has published several investigations identifying systemic problems at medical facilities across the country.

The VA Management Alignment Act would ask VA to include recommendations for legislation in its report, which it would have 6 months to draft. Improving accountability is a major focus for the VA. Earlier this year, President Trump signed a measure hoping to improve department accountability and speeding up the disciplinary process for VA employees. This new report would include a list of leaders at every VA office, region, and medical facility.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, introduced the measure. “Stories and reports about manipulated wait times and mismanagement in our VA system proved that systemic reforms were needed. We are calling on the VA to address management challenges and improve care, so veterans get the services they have earned,” he said. He also added that the VA struggles to implement new policies “due to a severe lack of clarity regarding the roles, missions, and accountability of sr. leaders and organizations within the agency.”

“There has to be a clean, transparent, and enforced relationship between the leaders and layers of the VA,” he said. “We need all the rowers in the boat paddling in the same direction, not beating each other over the heads.”

The American Federation of Government Employees, representing 230,000 VA employees, has generally opposed accountability bills and reforms proposed by the Commission on Care because union officials see it as a disproportionate focus on rank-and-file employees of management. However, AFGE has endorsed the new Management Alignment Act, as well as the American Legion.

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