House Passes Veterans’ Gun Rights Bill and VA Accountability Bill
On Wednesday, the House was preparing to vote on a number of bills, including one that would reverse the Obama administration’s previous attacks on the rights of America’s veterans to keep and bear arms. I’m happy to report that the bill passed, along with another bill that seeks greater accountability from Veterans Affairs and makes it easier to fire VA employees.
Both bills were passed mostly along party lines.
In addressing concerns Democrats expressed at why both bills were put ahead of plans to reform the appeals process for veterans disability benefits, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) said, “We’re here on the floor today to protect the constitutional rights of our heroes and to make sure we’re taking care of them like we promised we would.”
Military Times reports:
The two bills, both sponsored by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, R-Tenn., received the backing of the White House and Department of Veterans Affairs. But they face an uncertain future in the Senate, where Democratic opposition could stall their progress indefinitely.
The first — which passed 237-178 — would allow the VA secretary to fire or suspend any employee for poor performance or misconduct, regardless of their position. Those employees would receive advance notice of discipline of not more than 10 days, and the secretary would have five days after the action to respond to any objections.
If those employees appeal the punishment, judges with the Merit Systems Protection Board would have 45 days to issue a ruling.
Those provisions go to lawmaker complaints that disciplining problem employees within current federal rules is too time consuming, sometimes taking months of hearings and reassignments. It also allows VA officials to recoup bonuses and specialty pay in certain instances where fraud or abuse is later discovered.
The bill received support from a number of veterans groups. While union supporters like American Federation of Government Employees said the legislation was “politicizing the workforce and gutting frontline employees’ basic worker rights,” Rep. Roe said that in order to provide “real reform,” Congress must “provide the secretary with the tools he needs to swiftly discipline employees who don’t meet standards our veterans deserve, or fail in their sacred mission to provide world-class health care and benefits to the men and women who have served.”
The second bill regarding the rights of veterans to keep and bear arms passed 240-175.
Guns in the News reports:
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1181, the Veterans 2ndAmendment Protection Act, sponsored by Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate.
H.R. 1181 in many respects mirrors a recently enacted resolution to repeal an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that sought to deprive certain SSA beneficiaries of their Second Amendment rights.
The Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act would correct these deficiencies [in the VA]by ensuring that no beneficiary could be reported to NICS as a prohibited “mental defective” unless a judicial authority (such as a judge or magistrate) first determined the person to be a danger to self or others.
Due process, as well as Second Amendment rights, are fundamental liberties that all Americans enjoy. They are exactly the sorts of rights for which America’s veterans have sacrificed so much. The fact that the VA would infringe them in this manner is a national disgrace and one that is long past due for correction.
Both measures seem to be a step in the right direction of taking care of the veterans who have taken up the call to defend the united States.