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Trump Tracker: Pioneer updates on America’s president

Graphic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Kali Persall,
Managing Editor

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What Happened?

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 into law, which gives the VA more power to fire federal employees “quickly and effectively” and strengthens protections for VA whistleblowers, according to Trump.

 

The bill specifically responds to a scandal that took place at the Phoenix VA hospital in 2014, where veteran patients died because they did not receive timely care. Several whistleblowers, who the VA later retaliated against, alleged that senior managers instructed staff to falsify wait time data in order to collect employee performance bonuses, according to the Washington Post.

In May, the VA released a report based on the testimony of 190 employees, one million emails and thousands of documents, which found that that the appointment data was incorrect due to a flawed computer system and inadequate training, rather than intentional tampering, according to USA Today.

Former Phoenix VA director Sharon Helman was fired as a result of the scandal under the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which allowed executives to be fired without “standard due process protections,” but a federal court overturned her termination and ruled it unconstitutional, according to USA Today. The new law will bolster the accountability of senior executives in the VA through the new Office of Accountability.

“We want to reward, cherish and promote the many dedicated employees at the VA,” said President Trump, referencing whistleblowers at a White House speech given at the signing of the bill last Friday. “Since my first day in office, we’ve taken one action after another to ensure our veterans and make sure that they get world-class care; and the kind of care that they’ve been promised by so many different people for so many years.”

The new law will also allow the VA secretary to appoint new medical directors at VA hospitals, give veterans the option to see the doctor of their choice, and establish a system to transfer medical records from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veteran Affairs, according to Trump.

A website was established to publish average wait times at all VA hospitals and the law also establishes a delivery system of same-day mental health services to the 168 medical centers that make up the VA. “We will not rest until the job is 100 percent complete for our great veterans,” said Trump.

The bill was first introduced into the Senate on May 11, 2017, according to Congress.gov, the official website for federal legislation information. It was passed in the Senate on June 6, in the House of Representatives on June 13 and went to the president’s desk on June 22.

A May 26 report by the Congressional Budget Office, ordered by the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 24, estimates that the law will cost $3 million between 2018 and 2022, the time period for implementation.

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Trump Tracker: Pioneer updates on America’s president