Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said Wednesday an Obama administration proposal to increase accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs by raising pay for senior executives does not address the agency's deepest problems.
The proposal involves switching the classification of top VA officials from Title 5 to Title 38 of the Senior Executive Service, which would lift caps on how much the agency is allowed to pay certain employees.
But the move would also prevent those employees from delaying disciplinary action by appealing their punishments to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Officials accused of wrongdoing frequently bring their cases to MSPB in an attempt to avoid getting fired or demoted, a tactic that too often allows misbehaving VA staff to keep their jobs.
"The fact that even the labor-friendly Obama administration wants to cut the MSPB out of the disciplinary process for VA senior executives underscores just how much damage the MSPB is doing," Miller said Wednesday.
"That being said, if VA's proposal to eliminate the MSPB from the department's senior executive disciplinary process has any chance of getting through Congress, it needs a much stronger focus on the task at hand: instilling accountability across VA, rather than increasing pay and benefits for the department's most senior employees," he added.
Miller noted Title 38 employees can still delay the disciplinary process for up to 700 days, and argued that "simply reclassifying" the VA's highest officials "isn't going to cut it."
The Florida Republican also said the proposal should include "teeth" to prevent the VA from doling out pay increases to officials who didn't deserve them.
VA leaders have argued the agency is unable to recruit top talent due to the federal limits placed on employee compensation.