U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed a new legislation aimed at protecting whistleblowers and facilitating easier firing of employees at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).
“This is one of the largest reforms to the VA in its history. It’s a reform that I campaigned on, and now I am thrilled to be able to sign that promise into law,” Trump said during the signing ceremony of the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act at the White House.
Trump said the law was passed to right the wrongs done by VA staff in the past.
“We all remember the nightmare that veterans suffered during the VA scandals that were exposed a few years ago,” Trump said, adding that “some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls.”
The act allows the VA to take back bonuses paid to employees found guilty of misconduct, and prohibits employees who are appealing disciplinary decisions from being placed on paid administrative leave.
The VA was engulfed in a scandal in 2014 when an investigation found that delaying medical care to veterans and manipulating records to hide those delays were systemic throughout the VA.
Investigators found that 1,700 veterans who were patients were not on any official list awaiting appointments, despite their poor conditions. Some 1,138 veterans had been waiting longer than six months just to get an appointment to see their primary doctors.
The scandal led to the resignation of the then VA chief Eric Shinseki.