WASHINGTON, DC— Rep. Scott Franklin (FL-18) introduced H.R. 7734, the Personnel Integrity in Veterans Affairs Act, to require transparency in how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) records disciplinary action against VA staff alleged or accused of inappropriate behavior. This bill directs the VA Secretary to make permanent note of any investigation and its findings in the record of resigning VA employees.

 “VA staff must not be allowed to hide behind settlement agreements and other bureaucratic loopholes to avoid scrutiny and evade accountability for misconduct,” Rep. Franklin said. “I believe in due process-but what the VA is doing is not due process. Striking deals to “save time” sweeps potential wrongdoing under the rug and can prevent a full account of the facts. My commonsense bill will help ensure this practice, as well as the recent mishandling of sexual misconduct at the VA, does not continue.”

 In a 2016 House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) hearing, the panel discussed a “recurring practice” in which the VA often opts to pursue settlement agreements with resigning employees or those under review for disciplinary actions, instead of following the established personnel procedure to completion. Between July 2014 and 2016, HVAC reviewed more than 200 settlements. Of the cases they reviewed, 72% included monetary compensation to either the employee or their attorney, totaling more than $5 million. The average monetary disbursement to employees was more than $24,000. In 96% of the settlements reviewed, the disciplinary action proposed or taken against the employee did not appear in their permanent record form, (SF-50).

 In September 2023, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) was alerted to allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct by credible whistleblowers who did not trust the VA’s internal investigations process.  On September 29, 2023, HVAC sent the first of two letters to VA Secretary McDonough requesting information and documents related to the alleged misconduct. On November 13, 2023, 45 days later, the VA reassigned the perpetrator and the staff believed to have knowledge of the incidents. In the following weeks, multiple VA staff, believed to be involved or whose knowledge and handling of the incident were in question by HVAC, either resigned or retired.

Rep. Franklin will testify on this bill during a House Committee on Veterans Affairs legislative hearing Thursday, March 21 at 4:30PM.