WILKES-BARRE — The National Republican Congressional Committee Friday criticized U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright for voting against the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 — H.R. 1259.
“Anyone who really cares about veterans would vote ‘no’ on this bill,” Cartwright, D-Moosic, said.
NRCC spokesman Chris Pack issued a news release that said, “Matt Cartwright apparently thinks things are going great at the VA.”
Pack went on to say, “How else does he explain voting against the VA Accountability First Act, which holds VA employees accountable for poor performance and misconduct?”
According to news reports, the House passed the legislation Thursday that would allow the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to quickly fire, demote or suspend VA employees and recoup bonuses. The reports said the bill has support among veterans organizations that see the measure as a way to rid the VA of corruption within the department.
The bill passed the House 237-178. If the Senate approves it, it would go to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
“With boneheaded votes like this against our nation’s brave veterans, Cartwright should start worrying about his own performance and conduct,” Pack said. “This shameful vote is a slap in the face to our brave veterans.”
In response, Cartwright said that while it is imperative that accountability at the VA is increased, legislation that harms front-line workers, many of whom are veterans themselves, is not the way to do it. He said H.R. 1259 would weaken key protections that ensure all employees are treated fairly by destroying the collective bargaining rights of every VA employee and stripping whistle-blower protections.
“If whistle-blower protections are weakened, it is less likely that employees will report misconduct because of fear of retribution,” Cartwright said. “We must increase, not decrease, accountability at the VA.”
Cartwright said overall, the bill will have a disastrous impact on the Department of Veterans Affairs as a whole — harming patient care, reducing accountability for supervisors and managers, abrogating rights of VA employees and making it harder for the VA to recruit top talent and function effectively and efficiently.
“Our nation’s veterans deserve the best quality patient care,” Cartwright said. “They deserve a health care system that puts the quality of their health care as its top priority, and not a system that serves to attack the very employees trying to provide that care. We need to make improvements to the VA, but this is not the answer.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.