Good Intentions Start a Slippery Slide to the Bottom - June 14, 2017
Todd Wells, Executive Director Federal Managers Association
The members of the Federal Managers Association (FMA) remain steadfast in their desire to work with Congress and the President to identify more effective and cost-efficient ways to ensure our veterans receive the treatment they deserve. However, we are extremely concerned by the erosion of due process for federal employees included in the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.
The singular goal of the VA should be to ensure veterans receive the world-class care they have more than earned through their sacrifice for our nation. However, reducing due process rights for all VA employees, including more than 100,000 of these same veterans who now work for Veterans Affairs, does not achieve the intended goal of what is at the heart of this legislation – a valiant effort to properly care for some of our most valued citizens.
The bill enables the department's secretary to fire, suspend or demote an employee with only 15 days' notice. Current statute requires a minimum of 30 days' notice from the date the proposal to remove or demote is issued to the employee until its effective date of action. FMA opposes any erosion of federal employees' right to due process. This legislation creates a slippery slope and is one step toward a return to the spoils system where the civil service becomes politicized.
As both chambers of Congress have passed this bill, and the President has or will soon sign it into law, FMA believes accountability at the VA should be addressed in a different manner. Poor performers and misconduct within the VA and across the federal government must always be addressed in a mature and professional manner, but not at the expense of the disciplinary and appeals process currently afforded federal employees. We argue the current disciplinary system, as written in statute, is not broken – it simply is not always used as intended.
America’s civil service has been an example to the world of what good government should look like, and provides continuity through sometimes tumultuous transitions. We urge Congress and the President to invest in management training and empower bold decision making by federal managers rather than pull down the foundations of our civil service system.