DENVER – President Donald Trump on Friday signed a bill supported by all of Colorado’s congressional delegation aimed at making it easier to fire bad Veterans Affairs employees and protect whistleblowers after several high-profile scandals over the past several years.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 passed the Senate on June 7 with support from both of Colorado’s senators, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner.
It passed the House on June 13, with all of Colorado’s House of Representatives members from both sides of the aisle voting in favor of the bill.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., fulfills one of the president’s campaign promises of dismissing employees at the VA “who let our veterans down,” he said at Friday’s bill signing ceremony, promising more VA reform in the future.
"What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls," Trump said at the signing, according to NPR.
“After multiple scandals at the VA, Congress worked in a bipartisan fashion and passed additional reforms that will have a real impact on our nation’s veterans,” Gardner said Friday.
Gardner, Bennet and Coffman have all lauded the bill in recent weeks.
Bennet said the bill “encourages managers and patients to address poor performance and misconduct of VA employees and grants more oversight of the department.”
He and Gardner last year worked an amendment into the national defense budget that ordered the Government Accountability Office to study the VA’s oversight over construction projects, including the plagued Aurora VA hospital, which is running years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.
The bill also comes three years after several veterans died while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA hospital and other centers across the country as some VA employees covered up the lengthy wait times.
Gardner said upon the Senate’s passage of the bill that he was “thrilled” and that he looked forward to the president signing the bill.
Coffman called the bill’s passage in the House a “significant step in the right direction.”
The bill was the 40th piece of legislation so far signed by President Trump, according to NPR, though the majority of those pieces have repealed Obama administration policies or modified already-existing programs.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.