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114th Congress ]                                      [ Rept. 114-225
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session   ]                                      [ Part 1

======================================================================
 
                     VA ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2015

                                _______
                                

 July 23, 2015.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Miller of Florida, from the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1994]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Veterans' Affairs, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 1994) to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
provide for the removal or demotion of employees of the 
Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or 
misconduct, and for other purposes, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that 
the bill as amended do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Amendment........................................................     2
Purpose and Summary..............................................    12
Background and Need for Legislation..............................    12
Hearings.........................................................    23
Subcommittee Consideration.......................................    25
Committee Consideration..........................................    26
Committee Votes..................................................    26
Committee Oversight Findings.....................................    28
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............    28
New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures    28
Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits.............................    29
Committee Cost Estimate..........................................    29
Congressional Budget Office Estimate.............................    29
Federal Mandates Statement.......................................    33
Advisory Committee Statement.....................................    34
Constitutional Authority Statement...............................    34
Applicability to Legislative Branch..............................    34
Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs.....................    34
Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking................................    34
Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation...................    34
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill as Reported.............    41
Dissenting Views.................................................    59

                               Amendment

    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

  This Act may be cited as the ``VA Accountability Act of 2015''.

SEC. 2. REMOVAL OR DEMOTION OF EMPLOYEES BASED ON PERFORMANCE OR 
                    MISCONDUCT.

  (a) In General.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, is 
amended by adding at the end the following new section:

``Sec. 715. Employees: removal or demotion based on performance or 
                    misconduct

  ``(a) In General.--The Secretary may remove or demote an individual 
who is an employee of the Department if the Secretary determines the 
performance or misconduct of the individual warrants such removal or 
demotion. If the Secretary so removes or demotes such an individual, 
the Secretary may--
          ``(1) remove the individual from the civil service (as 
        defined in section 2101 of title 5); or
          ``(2) demote the individual by means of--
                  ``(A) a reduction in grade for which the individual 
                is qualified and that the Secretary determines is 
                appropriate; or
                  ``(B) a reduction in annual rate of pay that the 
                Secretary determines is appropriate.
  ``(b) Pay of Certain Demoted Individuals.--(1) Notwithstanding any 
other provision of law, any individual subject to a demotion under 
subsection (a)(2)(A) shall, beginning on the date of such demotion, 
receive the annual rate of pay applicable to such grade.
  ``(2) An individual so demoted may not be placed on administrative 
leave or any other category of paid leave during the period during 
which an appeal (if any) under this section is ongoing, and may only 
receive pay if the individual reports for duty. If an individual so 
demoted does not report for duty, such individual shall not receive pay 
or other benefits pursuant to subsection (e)(5).
  ``(c) Notice to Congress.--Not later than 30 days after removing or 
demoting an individual under subsection (a), the Secretary shall submit 
to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of 
Representatives notice in writing of such removal or demotion and the 
reason for such removal or demotion.
  ``(d) Procedure.--(1) The procedures under section 7513(b) of title 5 
and chapter 43 of such title shall not apply to a removal or demotion 
under this section.
  ``(2)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B) and subsection (e), any removal 
or demotion under subsection (a) may be appealed to the Merit Systems 
Protection Board under section 7701 of title 5.
  ``(B) An appeal under subparagraph (A) of a removal or demotion may 
only be made if such appeal is made not later than seven days after the 
date of such removal or demotion.
  ``(e) Expedited Review by Administrative Judge.--(1) Upon receipt of 
an appeal under subsection (d)(2)(A), the Merit Systems Protection 
Board shall refer such appeal to an administrative judge pursuant to 
section 7701(b)(1) of title 5. The administrative judge shall expedite 
any such appeal under such section and, in any such case, shall issue a 
decision not later than 45 days after the date of the appeal.
  ``(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including section 
7703 of title 5, the decision of an administrative judge under 
paragraph (1) shall be final and shall not be subject to any further 
appeal.
  ``(3) In any case in which the administrative judge cannot issue a 
decision in accordance with the 45-day requirement under paragraph (1), 
the removal or demotion is final. In such a case, the Merit Systems 
Protection Board shall, within 14 days after the date that such removal 
or demotion is final, submit to Congress and the Committees on 
Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives a report 
that explains the reasons why a decision was not issued in accordance 
with such requirement.
  ``(4) The Merit Systems Protection Board or administrative judge may 
not stay any removal or demotion under this section.
  ``(5) During the period beginning on the date on which an individual 
appeals a removal from the civil service under subsection (d) and 
ending on the date that the administrative judge issues a final 
decision on such appeal, such individual may not receive any pay, 
awards, bonuses, incentives, allowances, differentials, student loan 
repayments, special payments, or benefits.
  ``(6) To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall provide 
to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and to any administrative judge 
to whom an appeal under this section is referred, such information and 
assistance as may be necessary to ensure an appeal under this 
subsection is expedited.
  ``(f) Whistleblower Protection.--(1) In the case of an individual 
seeking corrective action (or on behalf of whom corrective action is 
sought) from the Office of Special Counsel based on an alleged 
prohibited personnel practice described in section 2302(b) of title 5, 
the Secretary may not remove or demote such individual under subsection 
(a) without the approval of the Special Counsel under section 1214(f) 
of title 5.
  ``(2) In the case of an individual who has filed a whistleblower 
complaint, as such term is defined in section 731 of this title, the 
Secretary may not remove or demote such individual under subsection (a) 
until the central whistleblower office under section 732(h) of this 
title has made a final decision with respect to the whistleblower 
complaint.
  ``(g) Termination of Investigations by Office of Special Counsel.--
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Special Counsel 
(established by section 1211 of title 5) may terminate an investigation 
of a prohibited personnel practice alleged by an employee or former 
employee of the Department after the Special Counsel provides to the 
employee or former employee a written statement of the reasons for the 
termination of the investigation. Such statement may not be admissible 
as evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding without the 
consent of such employee or former employee.
  ``(h) Relation to Title 5.--The authority provided by this section is 
in addition to the authority provided by subchapter V of chapter 75 of 
title 5 and chapter 43 of such title.
  ``(i) Definitions.--In this section:
          ``(1) The term `individual' means an individual occupying a 
        position at the Department but does not include--
                  ``(A) an individual, as that term is defined in 
                section 713(g)(1); or
                  ``(B) a political appointee.
          ``(2) The term `grade' has the meaning given such term in 
        section 7511(a) of title 5.
          ``(3) The term `misconduct' includes neglect of duty, 
        malfeasance, or failure to accept a directed reassignment or to 
        accompany a position in a transfer of function.
          ``(4) The term `political appointee' means an individual who 
        is--
                  ``(A) employed in a position described under sections 
                5312 through 5316 of title 5 (relating to the Executive 
                Schedule);
                  ``(B) a limited term appointee, limited emergency 
                appointee, or noncareer appointee in the Senior 
                Executive Service, as defined under paragraphs (5), 
                (6), and (7), respectively, of section 3132(a) of title 
                5; or
                  ``(C) employed in a position of a confidential or 
                policy-determining character under schedule C of 
                subpart C of part 213 of title 5 of the Code of Federal 
                Regulations.''.
  (b) Clerical and Conforming Amendments.--
          (1) Clerical.--The table of sections at the beginning of such 
        chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``715. Employees: removal or demotion based on performance or 
misconduct.''.

          (2) Conforming.--Section 4303(f) of title 5, United States 
        Code, is amended--
                  (A) by striking ``or'' at the end of paragraph (2);
                  (B) by striking the period at the end of paragraph 
                (3) and inserting ``, or''; and
                  (C) by adding at the end the following:
          ``(4) any removal or demotion under section 715 of title 
        38.''.

SEC. 3. REQUIRED PROBATIONARY PERIOD FOR NEW EMPLOYEES OF DEPARTMENT OF 
                    VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  (a) Probationary Period.--
          (1) In general.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, 
        as amended by section 2, is further amended by adding at the 
        end the following new section:

``Sec. 717. Probationary period for employees

  ``(a) In General.--Notwithstanding sections 3321 and 3393(d) of title 
5, the appointment of a covered employee shall become final only after 
such employee has served a probationary period of 18 months. The 
Secretary may extend a probationary period under this subsection at the 
discretion of the Secretary.
  ``(b) Covered Employee.--In this section, the term `covered 
employee'--
          ``(1) means any individual--
                  ``(A) appointed to a permanent position within the 
                competitive service at the Department; or
                  ``(B) appointed as a career appointee (as that term 
                is defined in section 3132(a)(4) of title 5) within the 
                Senior Executive Service at the Department; and
          ``(2) does not include any individual with a probationary 
        period prescribed by section 7403 of this title.
  ``(c) Permanent Hires.--Upon the expiration of a covered employee's 
probationary period under subsection (a), the supervisor of the 
employee shall determine whether the appointment becomes final based on 
regulations prescribed for such purpose by the Secretary.''.
          (2) Clerical and conforming amendments.--
                  (A) Clerical.--The table of sections at the beginning 
                of such chapter, as amended by section 2, is further 
                amended by adding at the end the following new item:

``717. Probationary period for employees.''.

                  (B) Conforming.--Title 5, United States Code, is 
                amended--
                          (i) in section 3321(c)--
                                  (I) by striking ``Service or'' and 
                                inserting ``Service,''; and
                                  (II) by inserting at the end before 
                                the period the following: ``, or any 
                                individual covered by section 717 of 
                                title 38''; and
                          (ii) in section 3393(d), by adding at the end 
                        after the period the following: ``The preceding 
                        sentence shall not apply to any individual 
                        covered by section 717 of title 38.''.
  (b) Application.--Section 717 of title 38, United States Code, as 
added by subsection (a)(1), shall apply to any covered employee (as 
that term is defined in subsection (b) of such section 717, as so 
added) appointed after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 4. TREATMENT OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINTS IN DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS 
                    AFFAIRS.

  (a) In General.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, is 
further amended by adding at the end the following new subchapter:

               ``SUBCHAPTER II--WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINTS

``Sec. 731. Whistleblower complaint defined

  ``In this subchapter, the term `whistleblower complaint' means a 
complaint by an employee of the Department disclosing, or assisting 
another employee to disclose, a potential violation of any law, rule, 
or regulation, or gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of 
authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health and 
safety.

``Sec. 732. Treatment of whistleblower complaints

  ``(a) Filing.--(1) In addition to any other method established by law 
in which an employee may file a whistleblower complaint, an employee of 
the Department may file a whistleblower complaint in accordance with 
subsection (g) with a supervisor of the employee.
  ``(2) Except as provided by subsection (d)(1), in making a 
whistleblower complaint under paragraph (1), an employee shall file the 
initial complaint with the immediate supervisor of the employee.
  ``(b) Notification.--(1) Not later than four business days after the 
date on which a supervisor receives a whistleblower complaint by an 
employee under this section, the supervisor shall notify, in writing, 
the employee of whether the supervisor determines that there is a 
reasonable likelihood that the complaint discloses a violation of any 
law, rule, or regulation, or gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, 
abuse of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health 
and safety. The supervisor shall retain written documentation regarding 
the whistleblower complaint and shall submit to the next-level 
supervisor and the central whistleblower office described in subsection 
(h) a written report on the complaint.
  ``(2) On a monthly basis, the supervisor shall submit to the 
appropriate director or other official who is superior to the 
supervisor a written report that includes the number of whistleblower 
complaints received by the supervisor under this section during the 
month covered by the report, the disposition of such complaints, and 
any actions taken because of such complaints pursuant to subsection 
(c). In the case in which such a director or official carries out this 
paragraph, the director or official shall submit such monthly report to 
the supervisor of the director or official and to the central 
whistleblower office described in subsection (h).
  ``(c) Positive Determination.--If a supervisor makes a positive 
determination under subsection (b)(1) regarding a whistleblower 
complaint of an employee, the supervisor shall include in the 
notification to the employee under such subsection the specific actions 
that the supervisor will take to address the complaint.
  ``(d) Filing Complaint With Next-level Supervisors.--(1) If any 
circumstance described in paragraph (3) is met, an employee may file a 
whistleblower complaint in accordance with subsection (g) with the 
next-level supervisor who shall treat such complaint in accordance with 
this section.
  ``(2) An employee may file a whistleblower complaint with the 
Secretary if the employee has filed the whistleblower complaint to each 
level of supervisors between the employee and the Secretary in 
accordance with paragraph (1).
  ``(3) A circumstance described in this paragraph are any of the 
following circumstances:
          ``(A) A supervisor does not make a timely determination under 
        subsection (b)(1) regarding a whistleblower complaint.
          ``(B) The employee who made a whistleblower complaint 
        determines that the supervisor did not adequately address the 
        complaint pursuant to subsection (c).
          ``(C) The immediate supervisor of the employee is the basis 
        of the whistleblower complaint.
  ``(e) Transfer of Employee Who Files Whistleblower Complaint.--If a 
supervisor makes a positive determination under subsection (b)(1) 
regarding a whistleblower complaint filed by an employee, the Secretary 
shall--
          ``(1) inform the employee of the ability to volunteer for a 
        transfer in accordance with section 3352 of title 5; and
          ``(2) give preference to the employee for such a transfer in 
        accordance with such section.
  ``(f) Prohibition on Exemption.--The Secretary may not exempt any 
employee of the Department from being covered by this section.
  ``(g) Whistleblower Complaint Form.--(1) A whistleblower complaint 
filed by an employee under subsection (a) or (d) shall consist of the 
form described in paragraph (2) and any supporting materials or 
documentation the employee determines necessary.
  ``(2) The form described in this paragraph is a form developed by the 
Secretary, in consultation with the Special Counsel, that includes the 
following:
          ``(A) An explanation of the purpose of the whistleblower 
        complaint form.
          ``(B) Instructions for filing a whistleblower complaint as 
        described in this section.
          ``(C) An explanation that filing a whistleblower complaint 
        under this section does not preclude the employee from any 
        other method established by law in which an employee may file a 
        whistleblower complaint.
          ``(D) A statement directing the employee to information 
        accessible on the Internet website of the Department as 
        described in section 735(c).
          ``(E) Fields for the employee to provide--
                  ``(i) the date that the form is submitted;
                  ``(ii) the name of the employee;
                  ``(iii) the contact information of the employee;
                  ``(iv) a summary of the whistleblower complaint 
                (including the option to append supporting documents 
                pursuant to paragraph (1)); and
                  ``(v) proposed solutions to complaint.
          ``(F) Any other information or fields that the Secretary 
        determines appropriate.
  ``(3) The Secretary, in consultation with the Special Counsel, shall 
develop the form described in paragraph (2) by not later than 60 days 
after the date of the enactment of this section.
  ``(h) Central Whistleblower Office.--(1) The Secretary shall ensure 
that the central whistleblower office--
          ``(A) is not an element of the Office of the General Counsel;
          ``(B) is not headed by an official who reports to the General 
        Counsel;
          ``(C) does not provide, or receive from, the General Counsel 
        any information regarding a whistleblower complaint except 
        pursuant to an action regarding the complaint before an 
        administrative body or court; and
          ``(D) does not provide advice to the General Counsel.
  ``(2) The central whistleblower office shall be responsible for 
investigating all whistleblower complaints of the Department, 
regardless of whether such complaints are made by or against an 
employee who is not a member of the Senior Executive Service.
  ``(3) The Secretary shall ensure that the central whistleblower 
office maintains a toll-free hotline to anonymously receive 
whistleblower complaints.
  ``(4) In this subsection, the term `central whistleblower office' 
means the Office of Accountability Review or a successor office that is 
established or designated by the Secretary to investigate whistleblower 
complaints filed under this section or any other method established by 
law.

``Sec. 733. Adverse actions against supervisory employees who commit 
                    prohibited personnel actions relating to 
                    whistleblower complaints

  ``(a) In General.--(1) In accordance with paragraph (2), the 
Secretary shall carry out the following adverse actions against 
supervisory employees whom the Secretary, an administrative judge, the 
Merit Systems Protection Board, the Office of Special Counsel, an 
adjudicating body provided under a union contract, a Federal judge, or 
the Inspector General of the Department determines committed a 
prohibited personnel action described in subsection (c):
          ``(A) With respect to the first offense, an adverse action 
        that is not less than a 14-day suspension and not more than 
        removal.
          ``(B) With respect to the second offense, removal.
  ``(2)(A) Except as provided by subparagraph (B), and notwithstanding 
subsections (b) and (c) of section 7513 and section 7543 of title 5, 
the provisions of subsections (d) and (e) of section 713 of this title 
shall apply with respect to an adverse action carried out under 
paragraph (1).
  ``(B) An employee who is notified of being the subject of a proposed 
adverse action under paragraph (1) may not be given more than five days 
following such notification to provide evidence to dispute such 
proposed adverse action. If the employee does not provide any such 
evidence, or if the Secretary determines that such evidence is not 
sufficient to reverse the determination to propose the adverse action, 
the Secretary shall carry out the adverse action following such five-
day period.
  ``(b) Limitation on Other Adverse Actions.--With respect to a 
prohibited personnel action described in subsection (c), if the 
Secretary carries out an adverse action against a supervisory employee, 
the Secretary may carry out an additional adverse action under this 
section based on the same prohibited personnel action if the total 
severity of the adverse actions do not exceed the level specified in 
subsection (a).
  ``(c) Prohibited Personnel Action Described.--A prohibited personnel 
action described in this subsection is any of the following actions:
          ``(1) Taking or failing to take a personnel action in 
        violation of section 2302 of title 5 against an employee 
        relating to the employee--
                  ``(A) filing a whistleblower complaint in accordance 
                with section 732 of this title;
                  ``(B) filing a whistleblower complaint with the 
                Inspector General of the Department, the Special 
                Counsel, or Congress;
                  ``(C) providing information or participating as a 
                witness in an investigation of a whistleblower 
                complaint in accordance with section 732 or with the 
                Inspector General of the Department, the Special 
                Counsel, or Congress;
                  ``(D) participating in an audit or investigation by 
                the Comptroller General of the United States;
                  ``(E) refusing to perform an action that is unlawful 
                or prohibited by the Department; or
                  ``(F) engaging in communications that are related to 
                the duties of the position or are otherwise protected.
          ``(2) Preventing or restricting an employee from making an 
        action described in any of subparagraphs (A) through (F) of 
        paragraph (1).
          ``(3) Conducting a peer review or opening a retaliatory 
        investigation relating to an activity of an employee that is 
        protected by section 2302 of title 5.
          ``(4) Requesting a contractor to carry out an action that is 
        prohibited by section 4705(b) or section 4712(a)(1) of title 
        41, as the case may be.

``Sec. 734. Evaluation criteria of supervisors and treatment of bonuses

  ``(a) Evaluation Criteria.--(1) In evaluating the performance of 
supervisors of the Department, the Secretary shall include the criteria 
described in paragraph (2).
  ``(2) The criteria described in this subsection are the following:
          ``(A) Whether the supervisor treats whistleblower complaints 
        in accordance with section 732.
          ``(B) Whether the appropriate deciding official, performance 
        review board, or performance review committee determines that 
        the supervisor was found to have committed a prohibited 
        personnel action described in section 733(b) by an 
        administrative judge, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the 
        Office of Special Counsel, an adjudicating body provided under 
        a union contract, a Federal judge, or, in the case of a 
        settlement of a whistleblower complaint (regardless of whether 
        any fault was assigned under such settlement), the Secretary.
  ``(b) Bonuses.--(1) The Secretary may not pay to a supervisor 
described in subsection (a)(2)(B) an award or bonus under this title or 
title 5, including under chapter 45 or 53 of such title, during the 
one-year period beginning on the date on which the determination was 
made under such subsection.
  ``(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall 
issue an order directing a supervisor described in subsection (a)(2)(B) 
to repay the amount of any award or bonus paid under this title or 
title 5, including under chapter 45 or 53 of such title, if--
          ``(A) such award or bonus was paid for performance during a 
        period in which the supervisor committed a prohibited personnel 
        action as determined pursuant to such subsection (a)(2)(B);
          ``(B) the Secretary determines such repayment appropriate 
        pursuant to regulations prescribed by the Secretary to carry 
        out this section; and
          ``(C) the supervisor is afforded notice and an opportunity 
        for a hearing before making such repayment.

``Sec. 735. Training regarding whistleblower complaints

  ``(a) Training.--The Secretary, in coordination with the 
Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman designated under section 3(d)(1)(C) 
of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. App.), shall annually 
provide to each employee of the Department training regarding 
whistleblower complaints, including--
          ``(1) an explanation of each method established by law in 
        which an employee may file a whistleblower complaint;
          ``(2) an explanation of prohibited personnel actions 
        described by section 733(c) of this title;
          ``(3) with respect to supervisors, how to treat whistleblower 
        complaints in accordance with section 732 of this title;
          ``(4) the right of the employee to petition Congress 
        regarding a whistleblower complaint in accordance with section 
        7211 of title 5;
          ``(5) an explanation that the employee may not be prosecuted 
        or reprised against for disclosing information to Congress in 
        instances where such disclosure is permitted by law, including 
        under sections 5701, 5705, and 7732 of this title, under 
        section 552a of title 5 (commonly referred to as the Privacy 
        Act), under chapter 93 of title 18, and pursuant to regulations 
        promulgated under section 264(c) of the Health Insurance 
        Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-
        191);
          ``(6) an explanation of the language that is required to be 
        included in all nondisclosure policies, forms, and agreements 
        pursuant to section 115(a)(1) of the Whistleblower Protection 
        Enhancement Act of 2012 (5 U.S.C. 2302 note); and
          ``(7) the right of contractors to be protected from reprisal 
        for the disclosure of certain information under section 4705 or 
        4712 of title 41.
  ``(b) Certification.--The Secretary shall annually provide training 
on merit system protection in a manner that the Special Counsel 
certifies as being satisfactory.
  ``(c) Publication.--(1) The Secretary shall publish on the Internet 
website of the Department, and display prominently at each facility of 
the Department, the rights of an employee to file a whistleblower 
complaint, including the information described in paragraphs (1) 
through (7) of subsection (a).
  ``(2) The Secretary shall publish on the Internet website of the 
Department, the whistleblower complaint form described in section 
732(g)(2).

``Sec. 736. Reports to Congress

  ``(a) Annual Reports.--The Secretary shall annually submit to the 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives and the 
Senate, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House 
of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs of the Senate a report that includes--
          ``(1) with respect to whistleblower complaints filed under 
        section 732 during the year covered by the report--
                  ``(A) the number of such complaints filed;
                  ``(B) the disposition of such complaints; and
                  ``(C) the ways in which the Secretary addressed such 
                complaints in which a positive determination was made 
                by a supervisor under subsection (b)(1) of such 
                section;
          ``(2) the number of whistleblower complaints filed during the 
        year covered by the report that are not included under 
        paragraph (1), including--
                  ``(A) the method in which such complaints were filed;
                  ``(B) the disposition of such complaints; and
                  ``(C) the ways in which the Secretary addressed such 
                complaints; and
          ``(3) with respect to disclosures made by a contractor under 
        section 4705 or 4712 of title 41--
                  ``(A) the number of complaints relating to such 
                disclosures that were investigated by the Inspector 
                General of the Department of Veterans Affairs during 
                the year covered by the report;
                  ``(B) the disposition of such complaints; and
                  ``(C) the ways in which the Secretary addressed such 
                complaints.
  ``(b) Notice of Office of Special Counsel Determinations.--Not later 
than 30 days after the date on which the Secretary receives from the 
Special Counsel information relating to a whistleblower complaint 
pursuant to section 1213 of title 5, the Secretary shall notify the 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives and the 
Senate, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the House 
of Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs of the Senate of such information, including the 
determination made by the Special Counsel.''.
  (b) Conforming and Clerical Amendments.--
          (1) Conforming amendment.--Such chapter is further amended by 
        inserting before section 701 the following:

              ``SUBCHAPTER I--GENERAL EMPLOYEE MATTERS''.

          (2) Clerical amendments.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of such chapter is amended--
                  (A) by inserting before the item relating to section 
                701 the following new item:

               ``subchapter i--general employee matters'';

                and
                  (B) by adding at the end the following new items:

                ``subchapter ii--whistleblower complaints

``731. Whistleblower complaint defined.
``732. Treatment of whistleblower complaints.
``733. Adverse actions against supervisory employees who commit 
prohibited personnel actions relating to whistleblower complaints.
``734. Evaluation criteria of supervisors and treatment of bonuses.
``735. Training regarding whistleblower complaints.
``736. Reports to Congress.''.

SEC. 5. REFORM OF PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL SYSTEM FOR SENIOR EXECUTIVE 
                    SERVICE EMPLOYEES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS 
                    AFFAIRS.

  (a) Performance Appraisal System.--
          (1) In general.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, 
        is further amended by inserting after section 717, as added by 
        section 3, the following new section:

``Sec. 719. Senior executives: performance appraisal

  ``(a) Performance Appraisal System.--(1) The performance appraisal 
system for individuals employed in senior executive positions in the 
Department required by section 4312 of title 5 shall provide, in 
addition to the requirements of such section, for five annual summary 
ratings of levels of performance as follows:
          ``(A) One outstanding level.
          ``(B) One exceeds fully successful level.
          ``(C) One fully successful level.
          ``(D) One minimally satisfactory level.
          ``(E) One unsatisfactory level.
  ``(2) The following limitations apply to the rating of the 
performance of such individuals:
          ``(A) For any year, not more than 10 percent of such 
        individuals who receive a performance rating during that year 
        may receive the outstanding level under paragraph (1)(A).
          ``(B) For any year, not more than 20 percent of such 
        individuals who receive a performance rating during that year 
        may receive the exceeds fully successful level under paragraph 
        (1)(B).
  ``(3) In evaluating the performance of an individual under the 
performance appraisal system, the Secretary shall take into 
consideration--
          ``(A) any complaint or report (including any pending or 
        published report) submitted by the Inspector General of the 
        Department, the Comptroller General of the United States, the 
        Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or any other 
        appropriate person or entity, related to any facility or 
        program managed by the individual, as determined by the 
        Secretary;
          ``(B) efforts made by the individual to maintain high levels 
        of satisfaction and commitment among the employees supervised 
        by the individual; and
          ``(C) the criteria described in section 734(a)(2) of this 
        title.
  ``(b) Change of Position.--(1) At least once every five years, the 
Secretary shall reassign each individual employed in a senior executive 
position to a position at a different location that does not include 
the supervision of the same personnel or programs. The Secretary shall 
make such reassignments on a rolling basis based on the date on which 
an individual was originally assigned to a position.
  ``(2) The Secretary may waive the requirement under paragraph (1) for 
any such individual, if the Secretary submits to the Committees on 
Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives notice of 
the waiver and an explanation of the reasons for the waiver.
  ``(c) Report.--Not later than March 1 of each year, the Secretary 
shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs and Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the Committees on 
Veterans' Affairs and Oversight and Government Reform of the House of 
Representatives a report on the performance appraisal system of the 
Department under subsection (a). Each such report shall include, for 
the year preceding the year during which the report is submitted, each 
of the following:
          ``(1) All documentation concerning each of the following for 
        each individual employed in a senior executive position in the 
        Department:
                  ``(A) The initial performance appraisal.
                  ``(B) The higher level review, if requested.
                  ``(C) The recommendations of the performance review 
                board.
                  ``(D) The final summary review.
                  ``(E) The number of initial performance ratings 
                raised as a result of the recommendations of the 
                performance review board.
                  ``(F) The number of initial performance ratings 
                lowered as a result of the recommendations of the 
                performance review board.
                  ``(G) Any adverse action taken against any such 
                individual who receives a performance rating of less 
                than fully successful.
          ``(2) The review of the Inspector General of the Department 
        of the information described in subparagraphs (A) through (D) 
        of paragraph (1).
          ``(3) A summary of the documentation provided under paragraph 
        (1).
  ``(d) Definition of Senior Executive Position.--In this section, the 
term `senior executive position' has the meaning given that term in 
section 713(g)(3) of this title.''.
          (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of such chapter, as amended by section 3, is further 
        amended by inserting after the item relating to section 717 the 
        following new item:

``719. Senior executives: performance appraisal.''.

          (3) Conforming amendment.--Section 4312(b) of title 5, United 
        States Code, is amended--
                  (A) in paragraph (2), by striking ``and'' at the end;
                  (B) in paragraph (3), by striking the period at the 
                end and inserting ``; and''; and
                  (C) by adding at the end the following:
          ``(4) that, in the case of the Department of Veterans 
        Affairs, the performance appraisal system meets the 
        requirements of section 719 of title 38.''.
  (b) Review of SES Management Training.--
          (1) Review.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the 
        enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall 
        enter into a contract with a nongovernmental entity to review 
        the management training program for individuals employed in 
        senior executive positions (as such term is defined in section 
        713(g)(3) of title 38, United States Code) of the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs that is being provided as of the date of the 
        enactment of this Act. Such review shall include a comparison 
        of the training provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs 
        to the management training provided for senior executives of 
        other Federal departments and agencies and to the management 
        training provided to senior executives in the private sector. 
        The contract shall provide that the nongovernmental entity must 
        complete and submit to the Secretary a report containing the 
        findings and conclusions of the review by not later than 180 
        days after the date on which the Secretary and the 
        nongovernmental entity enter into the contract.
          (2) Report to congress.--Not later than 60 days after the 
        date on which the Secretary receives the report under paragraph 
        (1), the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' 
        Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives the report 
        together with a plan for carrying out the recommendations 
        contained in the report.

SEC. 6. REDUCTION OF BENEFITS FOR MEMBERS OF THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE 
                    SERVICE WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS 
                    CONVICTED OF CERTAIN CRIMES.

  (a) Reduction of Benefits.--
          (1) In general.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, 
        is further amended by inserting after section 719, as added by 
        section 5, the following new section:

``Sec. 721. Senior executives: reduction of benefits of individuals 
                    convicted of certain crimes

  ``(a) Reduction of Annuity for Removed Employee.--The Secretary shall 
order that the covered service of an individual removed from a senior 
executive position under section 713 of this title shall not be taken 
into account for purposes of calculating an annuity with respect to 
such individual under chapter 83 or chapter 84 of title 5, if--
          ``(1) the individual is convicted of a felony that influenced 
        the individual's performance while employed in the senior 
        executive position; and
          ``(2) before such order is made, the individual is afforded 
        notice and an opportunity for a hearing conducted by another 
        department or agency of the Federal Government.
  ``(b) Reduction of Annuity for Retired Employee.--(1) The Secretary 
may order that the covered service of an individual who is subject to a 
removal or transfer action under section 713 of this title but who 
leaves employment at the Department prior to the issuance of a final 
decision with respect to such action shall not be taken into account 
for purposes of calculating an annuity with respect to such individual 
under chapter 83 or chapter 84 of title 5, if--
          ``(A) the individual is convicted of a felony that influenced 
        the individual's performance while employed in the senior 
        executive position; and
          ``(B) before such order is made, the individual is afforded 
        notice and an opportunity for a hearing conducted by another 
        department or agency of the Federal Government.
  ``(2) The Secretary shall make such an order not later than seven 
days after the date of the conclusion of a hearing referred to in 
paragraph (1)(B) that determines that such order is lawful.
  ``(c) Administrative Requirements.--(1) Not later than 30 days after 
the Secretary issues an order under subsection (a) or (b), the Director 
of the Office of Personnel Management shall recalculate the annuity of 
the individual.
  ``(2) A decision regarding whether the covered service of an 
individual shall be taken into account for purposes of calculating an 
annuity under subsection (a) or (b) is final and may not be reviewed by 
any department or agency or any court.
  ``(d) Lump-Sum Annuity Credit.--Any individual with respect to whom 
an annuity is reduced under subsection (a) or (b) shall be entitled to 
be paid so much of such individual's lump-sum credit as is attributable 
to the period of covered service.
  ``(e) Definitions.--In this section:
          ``(1) The term `covered service' means, with respect to an 
        individual subject to a removal or transfer action under 
        section 713 of this title, the period of service beginning on 
        the date that the Secretary determines under such section that 
        such individual engaged in activity that gave rise to such 
        action and ending on the date that such individual is removed 
        from the civil service or leaves employment at the Department 
        prior to the issuance of a final decision with respect to such 
        action, as the case may be.
          ``(2) The term `lump-sum credit' has the meaning given such 
        term in section 8331(8) or section 8401(19) of title 5, as the 
        case may be.
          ``(3) The term `senior executive position' has the meaning 
        given such term in section 713(g)(3) of this title.
          ``(4) The term `service' has the meaning given such term in 
        section 8331(12) or section 8401(26) of title 5, as the case 
        may be.''.
          (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of chapter 7 of such title is amended by inserting 
        after the item relating to section 719, as added by section 5, 
        the following new item:

``721. Senior executives: reduction of benefits of individuals 
convicted of certain crimes.''.

  (b) Application.--Section 721 of title 38, United States Code, as 
added by subsection (a)(1), shall apply to any action of removal or 
transfer under section 713 of title 38, United States Code, commencing 
on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

SEC. 7. LIMITATION ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE FOR EMPLOYEES DEPARTMENT OF 
                    VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  (a) Limitation.--
          (1) In general.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, 
        is further amended by inserting after section 721, as added by 
        section 6, the following new section:

``Sec. 723. Limitation on administrative leave

  ``(a) In General.--Except as provided in subsection (b), the 
Secretary may not place any covered individual on administrative leave, 
or any other type of paid non-duty status without charge to leave, for 
more than a total of 14 days during any 365-day period.
  ``(b) Waiver.--The Secretary may waive the limitation under 
subsection (a) and extend the administrative leave or other paid non-
duty status without charge to leave of a covered individual placed on 
such leave or status under subsection (a) if the Secretary submits to 
the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of 
Representatives a detailed explanation of the reasons the individual 
was placed on administrative leave or other paid non-duty status 
without charge to leave and the reasons for the extension of such leave 
or status. Such explanation shall include the name of the covered 
individual, the location where the individual is employed, and the 
individual's job title.
  ``(c) Covered Individual.--In this subsection, the term `covered 
individual' means an employee of the Department--
          ``(1) who is subject to an investigation for purposes of 
        determining whether such individual should be subject to any 
        disciplinary action under this title or title 5; or
          ``(2) against whom any disciplinary action is proposed or 
        initiated under this title or title 5.''.
          (2) Clerical amendment.--The table of sections at the 
        beginning of such chapter, as amended by section 6, is further 
        amended by inserting after the item relating to section 721 the 
        following new item:

``723. Limitation on administrative leave.''.

  (b) Application.--Section 723 of title 38, United States Code, as 
added by subsection (a)(1), shall apply with respect to any 365-day 
period beginning on or after the date of enactment of this Act.

SEC. 8. TREATMENT OF CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY BY DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS 
                    AFFAIRS EMPLOYEES AS OFFICIAL DUTY.

  (a) In General.--Chapter 7 of title 38, United States Code, is 
further amended by inserting after section 723, as added by section 7, 
the following new section:

``Sec. 725. Congressional testimony by employees: treatment as official 
                    duty

  ``(a) Congressional Testimony.--An employee of the Department is 
performing official duty during the period with respect to which the 
employee is testifying in an official capacity in front of either House 
of Congress, a committee of either House of Congress, or a joint or 
select committee of Congress.
  ``(b) Travel Expenses.--The Secretary shall provide travel expenses, 
including per diem in lieu of subsistence, in accordance with 
applicable provisions under subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, to 
any employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs performing official 
duty described under subsection (a).''.
  (b) Clerical Amendment.--The table of sections at the beginning of 
such chapter is further amended by inserting after the item relating to 
section 723, as added by section 7, the following new item:

``725. Congressional testimony by employees: treatment as official 
duty.''.

SEC. 9. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES PAID TO EMPLOYEES OF 
                    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  Section 705 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 
2014 (Public Law 113-146; 38 U.S.C. 703 note) is amended to read as 
follows:

``SEC. 705. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES PAID TO EMPLOYEES OF 
                    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  ``The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the aggregate 
amount of awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in a fiscal year 
under chapter 45 or 53 of title 5, United States Code, or any other 
awards or bonuses authorized under such title or title 38, United 
States Code, does not exceed the following amounts:
          ``(1) With respect to each of fiscal years 2015 through 2018, 
        $300,000,000.
          ``(2) With respect to each of fiscal years 2019 through 2024, 
        $360,000,000.''.

SEC. 10. COMPTROLLER GENERAL STUDY OF DEPARTMENT TIME AND SPACE USED 
                    FOR LABOR ORGANIZATION ACTIVITY.

  (a) Study Required.--Not later than 180 days after the date of the 
enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States 
shall conduct a study on the amount of time spent by Department of 
Veterans Affairs employees carrying out organizing activities relating 
to labor organizations and the amount of space in Department facilities 
used for such activities. The study shall include a cost-benefit 
analysis of the use of such time and space for such activities.
  (b) Report to Congress.--Not later than 90 days after the completion 
of the study required under subsection (a), the Comptroller General 
shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and 
House of Representatives a report on the results of the study.

                          Purpose and Summary

    H.R. 1994, as amended, the ``VA Accountability Act of 
2015,'' was ordered to be favorably reported to the full House 
on July 15, 2015. H.R. 1994, as amended, incorporates the text 
of H.R. 1994, introduced by Representative Jeff Miller of 
Florida on April 23, 2015; H.R. 2981 introduced by 
Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas on July 8, 2015; and 
H.R. 571, as amended. H.R. 571, as amended, includes the text 
of H.R. 571, introduced by Representative Jeff Miller of 
Florida on January 27, 2015 and H.R. 473, also introduced by 
Representative Jeff Miller of Florida, on January 22, 2015. 
Together, these provisions would improve Congressional 
oversight of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by 
providing the Secretary of VA another tool to expeditiously 
remove poor performing employees and by improving protections 
provided to whistleblowers, as well as ensuring whistleblowers 
are considered to be on official duty for travel pay purposes 
when testifying before Congress. The bill would also strengthen 
accountability and performance measures for Senior Executive 
Service (SES) employees and would restrict bonus awards for 
supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers.

                  Background and Need for Legislation


Section 2. Removal or demotion of employees based on performance or 
        misconduct

    On April 9, 2014, at a full Committee oversight hearing on 
patient safety, Chairman Miller stated that based on 
information received by the Committee, forty patients at the 
Phoenix VA Health Care System may have died while awaiting 
medical care. The Chairman also revealed that Committee staff 
had evidence from whistleblowers that the Phoenix VA Health 
Care System kept multiple sets of records to conceal prolonged 
wait times for appointments. The allegations of several 
whistleblowers, including Drs. Samuel Foote and Kathleen 
Mitchell from Phoenix, shed light on these issues and improper 
practices, which resulted in one of the largest scandals VA had 
ever endured. Subsequently, on August 7, 2014, in part to 
address the problems related to the scandal exposed by the 
Committee, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act 
(``Choice Act'') was signed into law by President Obama, which, 
among many other provisions, gave the Secretary the authority 
to remove SES employees for performance or misconduct.
    Following the enactment of the Choice Act, Deputy VA 
Secretary Sloan Gibson commented on October 6, 2014, that ``VA 
will actively and aggressively pursue disciplinary action 
against those who violate our values[.] There should be no 
doubt that when we discover evidence of wrongdoing, we will 
hold employees accountable.''\1\ Since the passage of the 
Choice Act, the Committee has continued to uncover many 
instances of mismanagement or misconduct by VA employees. Some 
of these instances include: allegations of manipulation of 
disability claims data at the Philadelphia Regional Benefit 
Office;\2\ the continued construction failures of a new medical 
center in Aurora, Colorado that is now many years and hundreds 
of millions of dollars over budget;\3\ VA's alleged $2.5 
billion shortfall for FY 2015;\4\ allegations of illegal use of 
government purchase cards resulting in the waste of billions of 
dollars annually;\5\ and many other examples of poor 
performance or misconduct. Throughout all of these incidents, 
it has become clear that VA often does not hold individuals 
appropriately accountable for their actions, and in the 
instances that they have tried to take disciplinary action 
against an employee, the process is so difficult and lengthy 
that such action rarely occurs.
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    \1\VA Moves to Fire 4 Senior Executives Due to Scandal, CBS News, 
October 6, 2014. 
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/va-moves-to-fire-4-senior-executives-due-
to-scandal/.
    \2\After 10-month probe, report slams Phila. VA, Philly.com, April 
17, 2015 http://articles.philly.com/2015-04-17/news/61222505_1_allison-
hickey-veterans-affairs-benefits-office-diana-rubens.
    \3\Aurora VA official: No line-by-line account of where $1 billion 
went, The Denver Post, July 1, 2015 http://www.denverpost.com/news/
ci_28415366/va-deputy-secretary-making-eighth-trip-denver-hospital.
    \4\VA says it may shut down hospitals to close $2.5B budget gap, 
Associated Press, July 13, 2015 http://www.stripes.com/news/veterans/
va-says-it-may-shut-down-hospitals-to-close-2-5b-budget-gap-1.357810.
    \5\VA Put Vets at Risk by Spending Billions Unlawfully, 
Whistleblower Says, Government Executive, May 14, 2015 http://
www.govexec.com/contracting/2015/05/va-put-vets-risk-spending-billions-
unlawfully-whistleblower-says/112828/.
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    A recent study done by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) found that on average, it takes six months to a 
year, if not longer, to remove a permanent civil servant in the 
Federal Government.\6\ This problem is epitomized by an example 
from 2014 where a VA peer-support specialist took a veteran who 
was an inpatient at the substance abuse clinic of the Central 
Alabama Veterans Health Care System to an off-campus location 
where he helped the veteran purchase illegal drugs and paid for 
the veteran to partake in other illicit behaviors.\7\ It took 
VA over a year to even begin removal procedures for this 
employee.\8\ Furthermore, a recent study by Vanderbilt 
University's Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions 
found that when they surveyed non-management federal workers 
across the government, and asked them how often under-
performing, non-management employees are reassigned or 
dismissed, 70% said it ``rarely or never happens.''\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \6\U.S. Government Accountability Office, Federal Workforce: 
Improved Supervision and Better Use of Probationary Periods are Needed 
to Address Substandard Employee Performance 
http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/668339.pdf.
    \7\Report: VA employee took recovering vet to crack house, 
Montgomery Advertiser, August 16, 2014. http://
www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/local/alabama/2014/08/17/
report-va-employee-took-recovering-vet-crack-house/14190573/.
    \8\A VA employee, a crack house, and a lengthy firing process, The 
Washington Post, August 29, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/
federal-eye/wp/2014/08/29/a-va-employee-a-crack-house-and-a-lengthy-
firing-process/.
    \9\The Fiscal Times, Federal Employees: Can't Hire the Best, Can't 
Fire the Worst, July 17, 2015. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/07/
17/Federal-Employees-Can-t-Hire-Best-Can-t-Fire-Worst.
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    Senior VA officials have also stated that the process for 
removing employees is too difficult and lengthy. At a full 
Committee oversight hearing on May 13, 2015, entitled, 
``Assessing the Promise and Progress of the Choice Program,'' 
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson admitted that is was too hard 
to fire bad employees at VA.\10\ The Committee agrees with 
Deputy Secretary Gibson, particularly that changes need to be 
made to the civil service procedures at VA to ensure true 
accountability for all employees while also maintaining an 
employee's due process rights.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \10\VA to Congress: It's Still Too Hard to Fire Bad Employees, 
Defense One, May 14, 2015 http://www.defenseone.com/management/2015/05/
va-congress-its-still-too-hard-fire-bad-employees/112831/.
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    Further illustrating the ongoing personnel issues within 
VA, is a report issued on June 27, 2014 by Robert L. Nabors, 
the former White House Deputy Chief of Staff,\11\ after he 
conducted a review to examine the issues impacting access to 
timely care at VA medical facilities, at the request of the 
President. He quoted in the report that there was ``a history 
of retaliation toward employees raising issues, and a lack of 
accountability across all grade levels,'' and that there ``is a 
tendency to transfer problems rather than solve problems. This 
is part due to the difficulty of hiring and firing in the 
Federal government.''\12\ His report made it clear that the 
personnel issues within VA and the lack of accountability 
weren't just isolated to a few facilities across the country, 
but were instead an inherent problem within the culture of the 
Department as a whole. The Committee believes that this report 
further supports the need for change and the need for the 
Secretary to have the authority to remove employees who are not 
meeting the standard of quality care and services to veterans.
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    \11\Mr. Nabors currently serves as Chief of Staff of the VA.
    \12\Rob Nabors Review of the Department of Veterans Affairs to 
assess issues impacting access to timely care at VA medical facilities, 
June 27, 2014. http://blogs.rollcall.com/white-house/wp-content/
uploads/sites/16/2014/06/ROBNABORSVAREVIEW.pdf.
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    Therefore, section 2 would amend title 38, U.S.C., and 
create section 715, to expand the SES removal authority 
provided under the Choice Act to all VA employees. Under this 
section, employees would have seven days after VA's final 
decision to appeal their removal or demotion to the Merit 
Systems Protection Board (MSPB). An administrative judge from 
the MSPB would then have 45 days to complete an expedited 
appeal and render a final decision on the case. The outcome of 
this appeal would not be reviewable by any other entity or 
court. If the MSPB is not able to complete the appeal within 45 
days, the Secretary's decision would be final, and the MSPB 
would have 14 days to submit to Congress a report explaining 
why it was unable to reach a decision on the case within this 
allotted timeframe.
    To prevent retaliation, the bill would also protect 
whistleblowers by not allowing the Secretary to use this 
authority to fire employees who have filed a complaint with the 
Office of Special Counsel (OSC), or that have filed a complaint 
under the new whistleblower process created by section four of 
this bill, until such complaints are resolved and/or finalized. 
The Committee believes that providing these protections is 
critically important as whistleblowers continue to be vital to 
this Committee's oversight role.
    Further, the Committee believes that the demotion and 
removal authority that would be provided by this section 
provides constitutionally adequate and appropriate levels of 
due process for employees while still providing the Secretary 
with yet another tool to remove any VA employee for poor 
performance or misconduct. This section would also give the 
Secretary the authority to remedy another negative observation 
made in Nabors' report, which stated that ``the Department must 
take swift and appropriate accountability actions. There must 
be recognition of how true accountability works.''

Section 3. Required probationary period for new employees of Department 
        of Veteran Affairs

    The federal hiring process is very complex and can take 
several months. The probationary period for Federal employees 
is intended to be the last step in the employee screening 
process. When an individual enters into competitive service at 
VA, and across the federal government, he or she is put on a 
probationary period at the beginning of their employment for 
one year.\13\ Physicians at VA are considered a part of the 
excepted service and are required to undergo a two-year 
probationary period. An employee's appeal rights are greatly 
diminished during their probationary period, as it is meant to 
be a period of time during which supervisors can fully assess 
the employee's capabilities and appropriateness for the 
position before that employee becomes a full-time employee of 
the agency. According to a MSPB report entitled, ``A Call to 
Action: Improving First-Level Supervision of Federal 
Employees,'' individuals need to demonstrate during their 
probationary period ``why it is in the public interest for the 
government to finalize an appointment to the civil 
service.''\14\ The C ommittee believes that this probationary 
period is vital to ensuring that VA is hiring only the most 
well-equipped employees. Many reports have illustrated this as 
an issue across the federal government, as supervisors do not 
use this time to thoroughly review an individual's performance 
or assess an employee's potential future success at the 
Department.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \13\Probationary periods are required by statute in section 
3321(a)(1) of title 5 U.S.C. By regulation, OPM has provided for a one 
year probationary period in 5 C.F.R. Sec. 315.801(a).
    \14\U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, A Call to Action: 
Improving First-Level Supervision of Federal Employees (Washington, 
D.C.: May 2010).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Committee also believes that the current standard of a 
one year probationary period is not long enough to accurately 
track and review a new employee's performance and outcomes. 
According to a February 2015 GAO report, the supervisor often 
``has not had enough time to observe the individual's 
performance in all critical areas of the job.''\15\ The 
Committee believes that this small window to fully assess a new 
employee's potential can lead to underperformance in the future 
which can affect services provided to veterans. Training for 
accurate claims processing and customer service to veterans can 
take two to three years, and attempting to accurately measure 
an employee's ability within one annual performance assessment 
cycle is nearly unobtainable. The GAO report also found that 
many agencies have utilized extended probationary periods for 
their employees beyond the OPM-required year to address these 
issues and to enhance the quality of their workforce. 
Similarly, the Committee believes that VA needs to have a 
longer probationary period to ensure only highly qualified and 
motivated employees continue within the Department, while 
ensuring it utilizes this extended time to properly manage 
performance outcomes and the employee's potential within VA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \15\U.S. Government Accountability Office, Federal Workforce: 
Improved Supervision and Better Use of Probationary Periods are Needed 
to Address Substandard Employee Performance 
http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/668339.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    In addition to the need for a longer probationary period, 
it is essential that VA supervisors are aware of when an 
employee's probationary period is about to conclude, and when 
they will then be considered a full-time employee, therefore 
accruing additional protections and appeal rights. The GAO 
report discussed the need for, and some agencies have already 
instituted, an employee's supervisor to make an affirmative 
decision to retain the employee beyond their probationary 
period. The Partnership for Public Service, a smart government, 
nonpartisan think-tank, articulated the need for a supervisor's 
affirmative decision on an employee's continued employment to 
the Committee in numerous meetings. Additionally, they provided 
support for this need in their testimony before the Senate 
Veterans' Affairs Committee by stating, ``As an employee's 
probationary period is coming to a close, we believe managers 
should be required to make an affirmative decision as to 
whether the individual has demonstrated successful performance 
and should continue on past the probationary period.''\16\ Due 
to the fact that it is much more difficult to remove an 
underperforming employee once they have completed their 
probationary period, the Committee believes that it is 
important that a supervisor perform a final review at the end 
of this period, and make a decision on the individual's 
performance and capability for continued employment within VA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \16\Testimony of Max Stier, President and CEO Partnership for 
Public Service, during a hearing entitled, ``Pending Healthcare and 
Benefits Legislation,'' before the Senate Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs, June 24, 2015. http://www.veterans.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/
PPS%20Stier%20Testimony%206.24.15.pdf.
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    Section 3, therefore, would amend chapter 7 of title 38, 
U.S.C., to extend the probationary period for all new 
competitive service employees within VA to 18 months, and would 
also allow the Secretary to extend this period beyond 18 months 
when he/she sees fit. This section would also require an 
employee's supervisor to make an affirmative decision at the 
end of the employee's probationary period as to whether the 
individual's appointment within VA should become permanent. The 
Committee believes this will further hold the Department's 
employees and supervisors accountable, as well as ensure a more 
qualified and highly performing workforce.

Section 4. Treatment of whistleblower complaints in the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs

    Essential to the Committee's oversight efforts is 
information it receives from veterans and VA employees who 
bring problems and concerns regarding the Department to the 
Committee's attention. Unfortunately, in conjunction with 
anonymous or public allegations of wrongdoing, many 
conscientious VA employees report retaliation at the hands of 
supervisors, senior managers, and other VA employees. This 
retaliation discourages employees from stepping forward to 
bring problems and concerns to light, leading to a pernicious 
and toxic environment where problems are disguised and not 
fully addressed. As a result, veterans suffer. Employees are 
guaranteed the right to communicate with Congress, and it is 
against the law to deny or interfere with their rights to 
furnish information to Congress.\17\ The Committee believes 
that it is essential to provide real protections to these 
employees who step forward and attempt to right wrongs and 
improve the manner in which VA provides benefits and services 
to veterans.
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    \17\5 U.S.C. Sec. 7211.
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    According to data provided by OSC prior to an April 2015 
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, VA 
employees have filed the largest number of complaints received 
by the OSC compared to any other executive branch agency. In 
fact, OSC has approximately 150 more open cases than the 
Department of Defense, which has nearly twice as many civilian 
employees as VA. Therefore, the Committee believes that VA 
employees need whistleblower protections in addition to federal 
whistleblower protections currently in place to address this 
epidemic of complaints. These additional protections are 
contained in section four of this legislation.
    First, section four would provide employees an additional 
method to report complaints and provide supervisors with the 
opportunity to address possible problems at the lowest level. 
The new process does not preclude other established methods or 
processes for filing complaints. The Committee has found that 
many of the complaints it receives from whistleblowers are 
routinely ignored or inadequately addressed by supervisors. In 
too many instances, supervisors have retaliated against 
employees for filing complaints. Section four would provide a 
process to ensure, as far as practicable, that supervisors 
respond to issues raised by employees. By mandating a written 
record of each step in the process and granting supervisors a 
fixed period within which to address complaints, the Committee 
seeks to balance the interests of whistleblowers and complaint 
resolution with the day-to-day operation of the Department. 
Section four would also provide employees with the ability to 
take their complaints to their immediate supervisor and report 
to higher-level supervisors if needed. Section four would 
require supervisors to provide written responses and brief 
reports to ensure that complaints are properly noted, recorded, 
and addressed. Section four would also require VA to provide 
annual training on complaint reporting and impermissible 
retaliatory actions to all employees and supervisors.
    Second, this section would establish the VA's Office of 
Accountability Review, or a successor office, as the central 
whistleblower office. The central whistleblower office must 
remain separate from VA's Office of General Counsel to prevent 
conflicts of interest and is responsible for investigating all 
VA whistleblower complaints. The central whistleblower office 
must also maintain a toll-free anonymous hotline for reporting 
whistleblower complaints. VA is required to notify all 
employees of their rights as whistleblowers by posting the 
hotline number and website for reporting complaints in every VA 
facility and on the VA website.
    Third, this section would hold supervisors accountable for 
retaliation against employees by mandating suspension, 
termination, and bonus prohibition and recoupment for 
supervisors found to have retaliated against employees. This is 
in response to Committee hearings that have confirmed 
retaliation against VA whistleblowers by supervisors, and in 
some instances by coworkers, where no adverse agency action was 
taken against the retaliating individuals. This has contributed 
to a culture that VA Secretary McDonald has vowed to 
change,\18\ yet VA cannot or has not provided evidence of any 
VA supervisors who have been terminated for whistleblower 
retaliation, despite repeated requests made by the Committee 
for such evidence.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \18\See, e.g. Veterans Affairs Chief Calls Culture Change Key to 
Improving System's Health Care, New York Times, November 6, 2014. 
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/us/politics/veterans-affairs-chief-
calls-culture-change-key-to-improving-systems-health-care.html.
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    Fourth, section four would require VA to provide annual 
reports to Congress on the status and disposition of 
whistleblower complaints and to notify Congress within thirty 
days of receiving a letter from the OSC. The Committee believes 
this would improve the flow of information between the 
Department and Congress and allow congressional inquiries as to 
the status and disposition of cases in order to increase 
transparency and ensure that whistleblower complaints are taken 
seriously by the Department.
    Finally, the provisions in this section seek to strike the 
proper balance between protecting legitimate whistleblowers 
from retaliation and deterring poor-performing employees from 
falsely asserting whistleblower status to avoid appropriate 
disciplinary and adverse actions.

Section 5. Reform of performance appraisal system for Senior Executive 
        Service employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs

    VA annually uses performance evaluation forms, known as 
``Senior Executive Performance Agreements,'' to track SES 
employees' performance, and determines bonuses based on the 
outcomes of these evaluations. Performance evaluations go 
through several stages before reaching the Secretary for 
signature, with opportunities for the employee to review the 
rating official's and performance review board's comments. VA 
currently has five rating levels, ranging from 
``unsatisfactory'' to ``outstanding.'' Reviewing officials are 
required to quantify various outcomes and elements of an 
employee's work performance for the prior year and summarize 
the decision to place an employee in one of the five levels. 
Executives are only eligible for performance awards if they 
receive one of the top two rating levels.
    Following the patient access scandal, the Committee began a 
thorough review of Performance Agreements for each SES employee 
at VA. For fiscal years 2010 through 2013, not a single 
executive had been placed in a level lower than one of the top 
three levels and most were placed in the top two levels, 
thereby making them eligible for a performance award. 
Management failures over the past year have convinced the 
Committee that this lack of distribution across all performance 
levels is evidence that the performance evaluation system 
within VA does not reflect reality and that the Department is 
unable to objectively and fairly examine its senior management 
on their merits. Time and time again VA senior managers receive 
glowing assessments and substantial performance awards, while 
these same managers have overseen systemic failures and 
performance that, when looked at objectively, could only be 
termed as unsatisfactory.
    For example, the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) 
issued a report following the patient access scandal that found 
that many of the 93 medical facilities it investigated had used 
various ``wait time manipulations.''\19\ Yet those senior 
executives' performance was classified as ``exceed[ing] fully 
successful'' or ``outstanding.'' It is clear to the Committee 
that such performance should be classified as neither, and that 
the performance measurement system needs to reflect the normal 
variation in performance among large groups of employees.
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    \19\Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General 
Report, ``Veterans Health Administration: Review of Alleged Patient 
Deaths, Patient Wait Times, and Scheduling Practices at the Phoenix VA 
Health Care System,'' August 24, 2014. http://www.va.gov/oig/pubs/
VAOIG-14-02603-267.pdf
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    Additionally, the SES was intended to be a mobile 
workforce, capable of assignments across the entire federal 
government.\20\ However, in practice, this mobility has not 
been realized with many VA SES employees remaining, not only 
within VA, but in the same location and position for 
significant portions of their careers. The Committee believes 
that not only is this detrimental to VA, as best practices and 
ideas at one location are not being spread throughout the 
agency, but it is also detrimental to the professional growth 
of the employee.
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    \20\The Senior Executive Service: Background and Option for Reform, 
The Congressional Research Service, September 6, 2012 https://
www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41801.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Therefore, section 5 of H.R. 1994, as amended, would amend 
chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., to require the Secretary to 
reassign SES employees at least once in every five year period. 
Reassignment would occur on a rolling basis to prevent a mass 
movement of all SES employees at the same time. Additionally, 
this section would limit to ten percent the number of VA SES 
employees that could be placed in the top performance tier and 
limit the second performance tier to twenty percent. While it 
is the ultimate goal that every VA senior executive be capable 
to perform at the highest level, the Committee believes that 
limiting the number of executives that could be ranked in the 
top two levels, and hence qualify for performance awards, is 
necessary in order to force VA to take a hard and thorough look 
at the performance of its senior employees and the 
effectiveness of its performance evaluation system.
    Section 5 would also require the Secretary to take into 
account any OIG investigations or Equal Employment Opportunity 
(EEO) complaints regarding a senior executive when evaluating 
that employee, and would require the Secretary to evaluate the 
executive's engagement with subordinates on performance 
improvement. It is important for the Secretary to get a full 
and accurate picture of the effectiveness of senior managers, 
to include any negative factors of their performance over the 
prior year. This section would also require the Secretary to 
contract with an outside non-governmental entity to review how 
well VA's senior managers are being trained and to make 
recommendations on ways to strengthen its senior management's 
performance for the future. The Committee believes that 
requiring the Secretary to accurately rank VA's leaders and 
managers would encourage a climate of greater accountability, 
while also producing positive outcomes for veterans and the 
rest of VA's employees.

Section 6. Reduction of benefits for members of the Senior Executive 
        Service within the Department of Veterans Affairs convicted of 
        certain crimes

    As a result of the wait list scandal referenced throughout 
this report, new focus was placed on holding SES employees 
accountable. Following passage of the Choice Act on August 7, 
2014, VA subsequently implemented a five-day waiting period 
prior to removal for senior executives to respond to their 
proposed removal.\21\ As of April 9, 2015, exactly one year 
since the Committee's public disclosure of the allegations 
concerning the Phoenix VA, the Department had removed only six 
SES employees. Of these six, two retired in lieu of removal 
with full benefits and pensions, and none were successfully 
removed for manipulation of data concerning patient wait times. 
One of these six employees was the Director of the Carl Vinson 
VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Georgia, where an investigation 
revealed that employees admitted to falsifying wait times and 
hiding long patient wait times.\22\ The second manager who 
retired in lieu of removal was the Veterans Health 
Administration's (VHA) Deputy Chief Procurement officer, who 
was the subject of an OIG report containing allegations of 
preferential treatment toward particular companies bidding for 
VA contracts and misusing her position and VA resources.\23\
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    \21\The VA testified that such a pre-termination waiting period was 
necessary in order to meet due process concerns relating to federal 
employment and the Supreme Court decision in Cleveland Board of 
Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985) and its progeny. See 
``Assessing the Implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice, and 
Accountability Act of 2014'' hearing of the Committee on Veterans' 
Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, November 13, 2014.
    \22\See, e.g. VA Manipulated Vets' Appointment Data, Audit finds, 
USA Today, July 30, 2014 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/usanow/
2014/07/29/va-veterans-healthcare-delay-fraud/13321571/.
    \23\Review of Allegations Regarding the Technical Acquisition 
Center's Award of Sole-source Contracts to Tridec for the Virtual 
Office of Acquisition, VAOIG, December 8, 2014. http://www.va.gov/oig/
pubs/VAOIG-12-02387-59.pdf.
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    The Committee believes that VA's-creation of the five-day 
pre-removal waiting period, which may often last for a much 
longer period of time, can enable an SES employee to elude 
punishment and an adverse record of conduct on the employee's 
employment file. The Committee believes senior employees 
identified for removal due to misconduct or performance should 
not be able to retire or resign without any consequence. Once 
employees retire, current law does not permit retroactive 
actions against retirement pensions and benefits except in rare 
and the most extreme circumstances.
    In 1954, Congress enacted what is commonly known as the 
``Hiss Act,'' which prohibited the distribution of any federal 
retirement pension to federal government employees, as well as 
Members of Congress, who were convicted of offenses ``relating 
to disloyalty, the national defense and national security, 
conflicts of interest, bribery and graft, or for federal 
offenses relating generally to the exercise of one's 
`authority, influence, power, or privileges as an officer or 
employee of the Government.'''\24\ In 1961, Congress amended 
the statute to narrow this authority, so that a federal 
employee's pension could only be reduced for more serious 
offenses that could harm the protection of the United States 
such as treason and acts of terrorism.\25\ While the Committee 
understands the congressional intent behind setting such a high 
bar for recouping an employee's pension, the Committee believes 
the VA patient access scandal and VA's demonstrated inability 
to hold senior management accountable warrants a change in 
current civil service laws to ensure that VA employees do not 
personally benefit from felonious activity.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \24\Congressional Research Service Report No. 96-530, Sept. 12, 
2013, page 1, https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/96-530.pdf (citing P.L. 
83-769, 68 Stat. 1142 (Sept. 1, 1954), see now 5 U.S.C. Sec. Sec. 8311 
et seq).
    \25\P.L. 87-299, 75 Stat. 640 (Sept. 26, 1961), see now 5 U.S.C. 
Sec. 8312.
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    Therefore, this section would amend chapter 7 of title 38, 
U.S.C., to allow the Secretary to reduce the retirement pay for 
an SES employee, or a title 38 equivalent, upon conviction of a 
felony that had an effect upon the purported work performance 
of that employee. The Secretary would have the authority to 
reduce the accrued years of credible service counted towards an 
employee's pension by the number of years in which the employee 
was found to have committed acts leading to the felony 
conviction. Any contributions made by that employee toward his 
or her pension during this period would be returned to the 
employee in a lump sum. This section would not, however, allow 
the Secretary to reduce any accrued Federal health benefits, 
and the employee would have the right to have an appeal of the 
Secretary's decision heard by another department or federal 
agency. The Committee believes that this change would still 
leave most protections afforded to senior executives intact by 
targeting only instances of felonies influencing work 
performance.

Section 7. Limitation on administrative leave for employees of the 
        Department of Veterans Affairs

    Prior to the expedited removal authority provided to the 
Secretary in the Choice Act for SES employees, and prior to 
H.R. 1994, as amended, to expand this removal authority to all 
VA employees, the Secretary (along with the rest of the federal 
government) was required to follow sections 75 and 43 of title 
5, U.S.C., and other Office of Personnel Management guidelines, 
to remove any employee of the Department. These requirements 
led to a process that takes, on average, six months to a year, 
or more, to remove an employee.\26\ The Committee has found 
that in some instances, perhaps in response to the length of 
the process, VA often relies on placing employees on extended 
paid administrative leave instead of initiating personnel 
actions or beginning the removal process. The Committee has 
uncovered several cases of employees being put on paid 
administrative leave for a year or more during investigations. 
For instance, Ms. Sharon Helman, the former director of the 
Phoenix VA Health Care System, who was at the center of the VA 
patient access scandal, was placed on paid administrative leave 
for more than six months before she was removed under the 
removal authority provided by the Choice Act. In fact, two 
other employees from the Phoenix VA have been on paid 
administrative leave since April 2014. There were also 
instances of a VA employee taking a veteran who was a 
recovering drug addict to a location to purchase illegal drugs 
(mentioned above), and an employee inappropriately spending 
over $30,000 of government money as well as engaging in 
sexually illicit conversations on government mobile devices. 
Both of these employees were also placed on paid administrative 
leave for extended periods of time.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \26\Government Accountability Office Report, ``Federal Workforce: 
Improved Supervision and Better Use of Probationary Periods Are Needed 
to Address Substandard Employee Performance,'' 2015. http://gao.gov/
assets/670/668339.pdf.
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    Committee staff has been told in briefings with VA that 
they are often unwilling to place an employee on unpaid 
administrative leave while that employee is under investigation 
due to the fact that placing an employee on unpaid 
administrative leave for longer than 14 days is considered to 
be an adverse personnel action, affording the employee more 
leeway during an appeal to the MSPB. While paid administrative 
leave can be a useful tool when dealing with certain personnel 
issues or during the process of removing an employee from the 
workplace while an investigation is underway, it is clear that 
VA uses this authority instead as the preferred alternative to 
making necessary personnel decisions in an expedited manner.
    Section 7 would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., by 
mandating that the Secretary may not place any VA employee on 
paid administrative leave, or any other type of a paid non-duty 
status, for longer than 14 days during any 365 day period. The 
Secretary would have the ability to waive this authority, but 
would have to submit to Congress a detailed explanation of the 
reason for granting the extension. VA's unwillingness to use 
the current tools available to the agency in managing its 
workforce and make efficient decisions concerning employment 
actions, has led to long, and often unfounded, paid 
administrative leave times. This hinders VA's mission, is 
detrimental to taxpayers, and is unfair to employees. The 
Committee believes that this section is vital to changing the 
culture at VA and instilling greater accountability and 
transparency within the agency.

Section 8. Treatment of congressional testimony by Department of 
        Veterans Affairs employees as official duty

    Currently, when whistleblowers from the Department testify 
before Congress, they must use personal leave time and pay out 
of their own pocket for travel, hotel, and other related costs. 
Additionally, if an employee tells his or her supervisor that 
he or she will be testifying as a whistleblower, that opens the 
door to potential retaliation or attempts to stop the employee 
from testifying. Conversely, if VA employees testify on behalf 
of the Department, they are considered to be on work-related 
travel, so VA pays for these expenses and provides these 
employees with a per diem. Unlike the whistleblower, this VA 
employee is not required to take personal vacation time.
    Section 8 would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., to 
designate all VA employees who testify before Congress, in 
whatever capacity, as being on official duty. This change would 
ensure that all employees would have their travel expenses paid 
by the Department, whether they are testifying on behalf of VA 
or whether they are testifying as a whistleblower regarding 
problems they have encountered in their official employment 
capacity.

Section 9. Limitation on awards and bonuses paid to employees of the 
        Department of Veterans Affairs

    Documents provided to the Committee have shown that VA had 
been annually paying out approximately $400 million in 
performance bonuses to employees for several years. Committee 
investigations and a Government Accountability Office report 
found monetary incentives did not necessarily result in higher 
performance outcomes, and many providers who received 
performance awards had open personnel actions against them.\27\ 
This has led the Committee to conclude that VA does not 
correctly utilize performance awards that are intended for 
exceptional performance, further diminishing accountability 
within VA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \27\Government Accountability Office Report, ``VA Health Care: 
Actions Needed to Improve Administration of the Provider Performance 
Pay and Award Systems,'' July 2013. http://gao.gov/assets/660/
656185.pdf.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Section 705 of the Choice Act limited the aggregate amount 
of awards and bonuses paid to VA employees each fiscal year to 
no more than $360,000,000. Section 9 would amend the Choice Act 
to limit the amount VA can pay in bonuses for fiscal years 2015 
through 2018 to $300,000,000 annually, and for fiscal years 
2019 through 2024, to $360,000,000 annually.

Section 10. Comptroller General study of Department time and space used 
        for labor organizations

    VA currently has five Master Collective Bargaining 
Agreements with labor unions, and the Department has additional 
agreements to these contracts at the local level as well. It is 
not uncommon for most medical centers and regional offices to 
have at least one employee who spends 100% of their time on 
union activities even if there is not a current personnel issue 
or grievance between management and an employee represented by 
the union. In many cases, VA also provides office space within 
its facilities, office furniture, and computers and copier 
equipment to the unions. As the Committee examined union 
activities within VA more, it was clear that there has not be 
any real studies done on the Department's labor relations 
office or the overall value that these expenditures provide to 
VA and most importantly the veterans.
    The Committee believes it is important to review VA's 
relationship with the unions with which they have bargaining 
agreements, while also doing a thorough overview of how these 
union agreements positively or negatively affect the daily 
functions and mission of the Department. Section 10 would 
require the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct 
a study on the amount of time VA employees spend involved in 
labor union activities. The study would also require them to do 
a cost-benefit analysis of the use of VA time and space spent 
on these activities. The study would be required to begin no 
later than 180 days after enactment, and GAO would be required 
to provide the results of the study to the House and Senate 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs. The Committee wants to ensure 
there is no predisposition as to the results of the review and 
would expect that this study be completed in an impartial way 
to provide VA and stakeholders with a true picture of union 
activity across the Department.

                                Hearings

    On March 19, 2015, the Subcommittee on Oversight and 
Investigations conducted a legislative hearing on various bills 
introduced during the 114th Congress, including H.R. 571 (from 
which section 4 of H.R. 1994, as amended, is derived). The 
following witnesses testified:
    The Honorable Jeff Miller, U.S. House of Representatives, 
1st District, Florida; Ms. Meghan Flanz, Director, Office of 
Accountability Review, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 
accompanied by Dr. Michael Icardi, National Director of 
Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Services, Veterans Health 
Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. 
Stanley Lowe, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information 
Security and Chief Information Security Officer, U.S. 
Department of Veteran Affairs, Mr. Dennis Milsten, CCM, 
Associate Executive Director, Office of Operations, Office of 
Construction and Facilities Management, U.S. Department of 
Veterans Affairs; Ms. Diane Zumatto, National Legislative 
Director, AMVETS; Mr. Frank Wilton, Chief Executive Officer, 
American Association of Tissue Banks; and Mr. Daimon Geopfert, 
National Leader, Security and Privacy Consulting, McGladrey, 
LLP.
    A statement for the record was submitted by the following:
    The American Legion.
    On March 24, 2015, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 
conducted a legislative hearing on various bills introduced 
during the 114th Congress, including H.R. 473 (from which 
sections 5, 6, and 7 of H.R. 1994, as amended, are derived). 
The following witnesses testified:
    The Honorable Jeff Miller, U.S. House of Representatives, 
1st District, Florida; The Honorable Patrick Murphy, U.S. House 
of Representatives, 18th District, Florida; Mr. Aleks Morosky, 
Deputy Director, National Legislative Service, Veterans of 
Foreign Wars of the United States; Mr. Christopher Neiweem, 
Legislative Associate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of 
America; Mr. Steve Gonzalez, Assistant Director, National 
Veteran Employment & Education Division, The American Legion; 
Dr. Joseph W. Wescott, President, National Association of State 
Approving Agencies; MG Robert M. Worley II USAF (Ret.), 
Director, Education Service, Veterans Benefit Administration, 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accompanied by Mr. Tom 
Leney, Executive Director, Small and Veteran Business Programs, 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Ms. Kimberly McLeod, Deputy 
Assistant General Counsel, and Mr. John Brizzi, Deputy 
Assistant General Counsel, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; 
and Ms. Teresa W. Gerton, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Veterans' 
Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department of Labor.
    Statements for the Record were submitted by the following:
    U.S. Department of Defense; School Advocates for Veterans' 
Education and Success; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Easter 
Seals, Inc.; and National Association of Veterans' Program 
Administrators.
    On June 2, 2015, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 
conducted a legislative hearing on various bills introduced 
during the 114th Congress, including H.R. 1994 (from which 
sections 2, 3, and 9 of H.R. 1994, as amended, are derived). 
The following witnesses testified:
    The Honorable Jeff Miller, U.S. House of Representatives, 
1st District of Florida; The Honorable Bill Flores, U.S. House 
of Representatives, 17th District of Texas; The Honorable Paul 
Cook, U.S. House of Representatives, 8th District of 
California; The Honorable Sean Patrick Maloney, U.S. House of 
Representatives, 18th District of New York; Mr. Paul R. Varela, 
Assistant National Legislative Director, Disabled American 
Veterans; Mr. Brendon Gehrke, Senior Legislative Associate of 
the National Legislative Service, Veterans of Foreign Wars of 
the United States; Mr. Steve Gonzalez, Assistant Director of 
the Veterans Employment and Education Division, The American 
Legion; Mr. David Borer, General Counsel, American Federation 
of Government Employees, AFL-CIO; Mr. Christopher Neiweem, 
Legislative Associate, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of 
America; Mr. Rick Weidman, Executive Director of Government 
Affairs, Vietnam Veterans of America; Mr. Curtis L. Coy, Deputy 
Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity of the Veterans 
Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 
who was accompanied by Ms. Cathy Mitrano, Deputy Assistant 
Secretary for the Office of Resource Management of the Human 
Resources and Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans 
Affairs; Ms. Teresa W. Gerton, Acting Assistant Secretary of 
the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, U.S. Department 
of Labor; and Dr. Susan S. Kelly, Director of the Transition to 
Veterans Program Office at the Office of the Under Secretary of 
Defense for Personnel and Readiness, U.S. Department of 
Defense.
    A statement for the record was submitted by the following:
    Paralyzed Veterans of America.

                       Subcommittee Consideration

    On April 16, 2015, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 
met in an open markup session, a quorum being present, and 
favorably forwarded H.R. 473, as amended, to the full 
Committee. During consideration of H.R. 473, the following 
amendment was considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Mr. 
Wenstrup of Ohio, which made minor changes to the pension 
rescission in section 2 of H.R. 473 to better address VA's 
legal and procedural concerns, adjusted section 3(a) of H.R. 
473 to ensure that movement of SES employees was done on a 
rolling basis, and added a new requirement that when VA is 
evaluating an SES employee's performance measures, they must 
also take into account that individual's ability to engage with 
his/her employees.
    On April 21, 2015, the Subcommittee on Oversight and 
Investigations met in an open markup session, a quorum being 
present, and favorably forwarded H.R. 571, as amended, to the 
full Committee. During consideration of the bill, the following 
amendment was considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Mr. 
Coffman of Colorado, which would require that VA's central 
whistleblower office be entirely separate from its Office of 
General Counsel, removed the issuance of fees to recoup the 
cost to the government for supervisor retaliation, and other 
technical changes to ensure proper application of the bill by 
VA.
    On June 25, 2015, the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity 
met in an open markup session, a quorum being present, and 
favorably forwarded H.R. 1994, as amended, to the full 
Committee. During consideration of the bill, the following 
amendments were considered:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute offered by Mr. 
Wenstrup of Ohio, which made minor changes to the whistleblower 
protection section of the bill which gave the Office of Special 
Counsel additional flexibility to quickly adjudicate 
whistleblower claims made by VA employees, was agreed to by a 
record vote of 5-4.
    An amendment to the amendment in the nature of a substitute 
offered by Miss Rice of New York to shield whistleblowers and 
employees of the department who are veterans from the removal 
procedure was rejected by a record vote of 4-5.
    A substitute amendment to the amendment in the nature of a 
substitute offered by Mr. Takano of California to provide the 
Secretary with the authority to immediately suspend without pay 
any employee whose performance was a threat to health or safety 
was rejected by record vote, 4-5.

                        Committee Consideration

    On May 21, 2015, the full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 571, as 
amended, reported favorably to the House of Representatives. 
During consideration of the bill, the following amendment was 
considered and agreed to by voice vote:
    An amendment in the nature of a substitute by Chairman Jeff 
Miller of Florida, which, in addition to incorporating 
provisions of H.R. 473, added to the original language of H.R. 
571, as amended, provisions which would require the Secretary 
to create a whistleblower complaint form for use in filing 
complaints, allow increased time for supervisors to respond 
with solutions to complaints, and ensure all appropriate 
complaint-related information and materials are easily 
accessible to all employees.
    On July 15, 2015, the full Committee met in an open markup 
session, a quorum being present, and ordered H.R. 1994, as 
amended, reported favorably to the House of Representatives. 
During consideration of the bill, the following amendments were 
considered:
    An Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute offered by 
Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida, which incorporated provisions 
of H.R. 571, as amended, which was reported to the House of 
Representatives on May 21, 2015. The amendment also adjusted 
the section on administrative leave to apply to all VA 
employees and required that the Secretary may not use the new 
authority that would be provided by section two of the 
amendment if the employee had made a whistleblower complaint, 
was agreed to by record vote, 14-10.
    An amendment to the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute 
was offered by Mr. Huelskamp of Kansas, which incorporated 
provisions of H.R. 2981 to authorize official duty status for 
all employees of the department who testify before Congress. 
This amendment to the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute 
was agreed to by voice vote.
    A substitute amendment to the amendment in the nature of a 
substitute was offered by Mr. Takano of California based on 
H.R. 2999 was rejected by a record vote of 10-14.

                            Committee Votes

    Clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires the Committee to list the recorded 
votes on the motion to report the legislation and amendments 
thereto. At the full Committee markup of the bill on July 15, 
2015 three recorded votes were taken:
    An Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to H.R. 1994, as 
amended, offered by Chairman Jeff Miller of Florida was agreed 
to by a record vote of 14 yeas and 10 nays. The names of the 
Members who voted for and against are as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Name                    Yea           Nay         Present
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mr. Miller....................            X
Mr. Lamborn...................            X
Mr. Bilirakis.................            X
Mr. Roe.......................            X
Mr. Benishek..................            X
Mr. Huelskamp.................            X
Mr. Coffman...................            X
Mr. Wenstrup..................            X
Mrs. Walorski.................            X
Mr. Abraham...................            X
Mr. Zeldin....................            X
Mr. Costello..................            X
Mrs. Radewagen................            X
Mr. Bost......................            X
Ms. Brown.....................                          X
Mr. Takano....................                          X
Ms. Brownley..................                          X
Ms. Titus.....................                          X
Mr. Ruiz......................                          X
Ms. Kuster....................                          X
Mr. O'Rourke..................                          X
Miss Rice.....................                          X
Mr. Walz......................                          X
Mr. McNerney..................                          X
                               -----------------------------------------
    Total.....................           14            10
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A substitute to the Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute 
to H.R. 1994, as amended offered by Mr. Takano of California 
was not agreed to by a record vote of 10 yeas and 14 nays. The 
names of the Members who voted for and against are as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Name                    Yea           Nay         Present
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mr. Miller....................                          X
Mr. Lamborn...................                          X
Mr. Bilirakis.................                          X
Mr. Roe.......................                          X
Mr. Benishek..................                          X
Mr. Huelskamp.................                          X
Mr. Coffman...................                          X
Mr. Wenstrup..................                          X
Mrs. Walorski.................                          X
Mr. Abraham...................                          X
Mr. Zeldin....................                          X
Mr. Costello..................                          X
Mrs. Radewagen................                          X
Mr. Bost......................                          X
Ms. Brown.....................            X
Mr. Takano....................            X
Ms. Brownley..................            X
Ms. Titus.....................            X
Mr. Ruiz......................            X
Ms. Kuster....................            X
Mr. O'Rourke..................            X
Miss Rice.....................            X
Mr. Walz......................            X
Mr. McNerney..................            X
                               -----------------------------------------
    Total.....................           10            14
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    H.R. 1994, as amended, was agreed to by a record vote of 14 
yeas and 10 nays. The names of the Members who voted for and 
against are as follows:

------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Name                    Yea           Nay         Present
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mr. Miller....................                          X
Mr. Lamborn...................                          X
Mr. Bilirakis.................                          X
Mr. Roe.......................                          X
Mr. Benishek..................                          X
Mr. Huelskamp.................                          X
Mr. Coffman...................                          X
Mr. Wenstrup..................                          X
Mrs. Walorski.................                          X
Mr. Abraham...................                          X
Mr. Zeldin....................                          X
Mr. Costello..................                          X
Mrs. Radewagen................                          X
Mr. Bost......................                          X
Ms. Brown.....................            X
Mr. Takano....................            X
Ms. Brownley..................            X
Ms. Titus.....................            X
Mr. Ruiz......................            X
Ms. Kuster....................            X
Mr. O'Rourke..................            X
Miss Rice.....................            X
Mr. Walz......................            X
Mr. McNerney..................            X
                               -----------------------------------------
    Total.....................           10            14
------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A motion by Mr. Lamborn of Colorado to report H.R. 1994, as 
amended, favorably to the House of Representatives was agreed 
to by voice vote.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

   New Budget Authority, Entitlement Authority, and Tax Expenditures

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee adopts as its 
own the estimate of new budget authority, entitlement 
authority, or tax expenditures or revenues contained in the 
cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

                  Earmarks and Tax and Tariff Benefits

    H.R. 1994, as amended, does not contain any Congressional 
earmarks, limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as 
defined in clause 9 of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives.

                        Committee Cost Estimate

    The Committee adopts as its own the cost estimate on H.R. 
1994, as amended, prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974.

               Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the following is the cost estimate 
for H.R. 1994, as amended, provided by the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, July 20, 2015.
Hon. Jeff Miller,
Chairman, Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1994, the VA 
Accountability Act of 2015.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CB0 staff contact is Dwayne M. 
Wright.
            Sincerely,
                                         Robert A. Sunshine
                                        (For Keith Hall, Director).
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1994--VA Accountability Act of 2015

    Summary: H.R. 1994 would limit the amount of awards and 
bonuses paid to employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs 
(VA) and would modify several of the department's personnel 
policies. In addition, the bill would prescribe a comprehensive 
process for handling complaints by whistleblowers. CBO 
estimates that implementing H.R. 1994 would, on net, decrease 
costs by $145 million over the 2016-2020 period, assuming 
appropriation levels are reduced by those amounts.
    Enacting the bill would have an insignificant effect on 
direct spending over the 2016-2025 period; therefore, pay-as-
you-go procedures apply. Enacting H.R. 1994 would not affect 
revenues.
    H.R. 1994 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA).
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary effect of H.R. 1994 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 700 
(veterans benefits and services).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                      By fiscal year, in millions of dollars--
                                   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                        2016         2017         2018         2019         2020      2016-2020
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATIONa
 
Limitations on Awards and Bonuses
 for Employees:
    Estimated Authorization Level.          -60          -60          -60            0            0         -180
    Estimated Outlays.............          -60          -60          -60            0            0         -180
Performance Appraisal System for
 SES Employees:
    Estimated Authorization Level.            8            2            1            1            1           14
    Estimated Outlays.............            8            2            1            1            1           14
Required Transfers of SES
 Employees:
    Estimated Authorization Level.            2            2            2            2            2           10
    Estimated Outlays.............            2            2            2            2            2           10
Treatment of Whistleblower
 Complaints:
    Estimated Authorization Level.            2            2            2            2            2           10
    Estimated Outlays.............            2            2            2            2            2           10
Other Provisions:
    Estimated Authorization Level.            1            *            *            *            *            1
    Estimated Outlays.............            1            *            *            *            *            1
    Total:
        Estimated Authorization             -47          -54          -55            5            5         -145
         Level....................
        Estimated Outlays.........          -47          -54          -55            5            5         -145
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Notes: Components may not sum to totals because of rounding.
* = -$500,000 to $500,000; SES = Senior Executive Service.
a In addition to the discretionary estimated costs and savings from enacting H.R. 1994 shown above, enacting
  section 6 would decrease direct spending by less than $500,000 in every year and over the 2016-2025 period.

    Basis of estimate: For this estimate, CBO assumes that H.R. 
1994 will be enacted near the beginning of fiscal year 2016, 
that appropriations will reflect the estimated changes each 
year, and that outlays will follow historical spending patterns 
for the affected programs.

Spending subject to appropriation

    H.R. 1994 would affect discretionary costs by limiting 
bonuses for employees of VA, reforming the performance 
appraisal system for Senior Executive Service (SES) employees 
within the department, revising the treatment of whistleblower 
complaints, reforming employee pay and hiring procedures, and 
requiring GAO to complete a report. CBO estimates that 
implementing H.R. 1994 would reduce net costs for personnel by 
$145 million over the 2016-2020 period, assuming appropriation 
actions consistent with the bill.
    Limitations on Awards and Bonuses for Employees. Section 9 
would limit the total amount that VA could pay in awards and 
bonuses to $300 million a year over the 2016-2018 period. Under 
current law, awards and bonuses for VA employees are capped at 
$360 million a year through 2024. Based on historical 
information from VA regarding pay and bonuses, CBO expects that 
VA will spend that full capped amount each year. Therefore, CBO 
estimates that implementing this provision would reduce costs 
for compensation by $180 million over the 2016-2020 period, 
assuming appropriation levels are reduced by that amount.
    Performance Appraisal System for SES Employees. Section 5 
would modify VA's system of evaluating the job performance of 
SES employees by increasing the number of rating levels, 
limiting the number of employees who can be rated at the higher 
levels, increasing the required documentation, and requiring an 
annual report to the Congress that would include a detailed 
description of the interim and ultimate evaluation of each SES 
employee. The provision also would require VA to hire a 
nongovernmental entity to conduct a review of VA's training 
program for SES employees and then to submit a report to the 
Congress with the findings and a plan to carry out the 
recommendations of the report.
    Based on information from VA, CBO estimates that updating 
VA's information technology systems to implement the new SES 
appraisal system would cost $7 million, hiring a 
nongovernmental entity to review the SES training would cost $2 
million, and submitting reports to the Congress would cost $5 
million over the 2016-2020 period. In total, CBO estimates that 
implementing section 5 would cost about $14 million over the 
2016-2020 period, subject to appropriation of the necessary 
amounts.
    Required Transfers of SES Employees. Section 5 also would 
require VA to reassign SES employees to new positions within 
the department every five years. The new assignments would have 
to include moves to different locations and involve supervision 
of different personnel and programs. VA has about 340 SES 
employees, and about 40 percent of those employees are located 
in Washington, D.C. The remainder are assigned to various VA 
facilities throughout the nation.
    Because VA would be required to rotate SES employees every 
five years, we expect that about 70 of the 340 SES employees 
would be reassigned each year. Over the past two years, VA 
relocated about 40 SES employees per year and CBO expects this 
trend will continue. Therefore, CBO anticipates that VA would 
relocate about 30 additional SES employees per year under 
section 5, CBO expects that 80 percent of the reassignments 
would involve a move to a different part of the country and the 
remainder (mostly in Washington, D.C.) would entail a move from 
one facility to another in the same general area.
    According to VA, the average cost to relocate an employee 
in 2014 was $61,300. In addition, VA offers a reassignment 
incentive of about $21,500 to employees and CBO expects that 
this practice would continue. Thus, we estimate the cost to 
relocate a VA employee to another region would be about $82,800 
in 2016 and the cost to move someone within a region would be 
$21,500. Both of those costs would increase annually with 
inflation.
    Therefore, CBO estimates that implementing this provision 
would increase personnel costs by about $10 million over the 
2016-2020 period, subject to appropriation of the necessary 
amounts.
    Treatment of Whistleblower Complaints. Section 4 would 
require VA to put new procedures in place to address complaints 
submitted by whistleblowers regarding violations of laws and 
regulations, and instances of fraud, waste, and abuse. Under 
the new system:
           Employees would be required to file 
        whistleblower complaints with their immediate 
        supervisor, who would then be required to maintain 
        written documentation and file monthly reports with his 
        or her immediate supervisor on what actions have been 
        taken to address each complaint;
           Employees could move their complaint up the 
        chain of command should the immediate supervisor not 
        adequately address the claim;
           Employees who filed whistleblower complaints 
        would be allowed to transfer to another position within 
        the department under certain conditions;
           VA would be required to discipline 
        supervisors who are found to have taken prohibited 
        personnel actions that adversely affect an employee who 
        files or participates in actions related to a 
        whistleblower complaint;
           VA would be required to recoup bonuses paid 
        to supervisors who took prohibited personal actions 
        against whistleblowers;
           Criteria for evaluating the performance of 
        supervisors at VA would include the actions taken by 
        those employees to address whistleblower complaints;
           VA would be required to provide department-
        wide training to employees on their rights as 
        whistleblowers and the procedures that are in place to 
        protect those who do file complaints; and
           VA would be required to submit annual 
        reports to the Congress detailing the number of 
        whistleblower complaints filed and how they were 
        addressed by VA.
    Based on information from VA, CBO estimates that the new 
reports to the Congress as well as the mandatory training on 
whistleblower rights would cost about $2 million per year over 
the 2016-2020 period. Also, CBO estimates that very few 
supervisors would be required to repay bonuses; therefore, 
section 4 would have an insignificant effect on spending for 
compensation. In total, CBO estimates that implementing section 
4 would have a net cost of $10 million over the 2016-2020 
period, subject to appropriation of the necessary amounts.
    Other Provisions. Other provisions in the bill would 
increase or decrease discretionary costs by insignificant 
amounts, generally because very few people would be affected. 
In total, CBO estimates that implementing these provisions 
would have a net cost of $1 million over the 2016-2020 period.
    GAO Report. Section 10 would require the Government 
Accountability Office to conduct a study and report on the 
amount of time VA employees spend carrying out activities 
related to labor organizations and the amount of space in VA 
facilities used for such activities.
    Congressional Testimony by VA Employees. Section 8 would 
require VA to treat time spent testifying before the Congress 
as official duty and to pay travel expenses and per diem for 
all employees called to testify. Generally, when Congress 
requests employees of VA to testify before any committee, 
travel expenses and per diem are paid by the department. 
However, if an employee contacts the committee and offers to 
testify, as is often the case with whistleblowers, the travel 
and per diem are not covered by VA. Based on information from 
the relevant Congressional committees, roughly 10 such 
individuals a year are called to testify before committees in 
either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
    Limitation on Administrative Leave for SES Employees. 
Section 7 would limit the length of time an employee being 
investigated for potential disciplinary action could be placed 
on administrative leave to 14 days during any 365-day period. 
That requirement could be waived if an explanation was provided 
to the Congress as to why the employee should be placed on 
leave for a longer time.
    Removal or Demotion of VA Employees. Section 2 would 
expedite the process for VA to remove or demote employees whose 
performance or misconduct warrants such an action. CBO expects 
that the demotion or removal of those employees would have no 
net budgetary effect because it would result in the promotion 
or hiring of other employees.
    Probationary Period for New VA Employees. Section 3 would 
require VA to implement an 18-month probationary period for all 
new employees. After that time VA could: extend the 
probationary period, make an offer of permanent employment, or 
terminate the employment. VA currently employs a 12-month 
probationary period for new employees to the competitive 
service or career SES employees of the department.

Direct spending

    Section 6 would reduce the retirement annuity payments for 
SES employees of VA who are removed from employment because of 
a felony conviction or who retire from VA before being removed 
because of a felony conviction. The amount of the reduction 
would reflect a loss of credit for the time period starting 
when the employee first engaged in the unlawful activity and 
ending with the employee's removal from service. Because of the 
small number of VA's SES employees who are likely to be removed 
from service because of a felony conviction, CBO estimates that 
enacting section 6 would reduce direct spending by less than 
$500,000 over the 2016-2025 period.
    Increase in long-term direct spending: CBO estimates that 
enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending 
by at least $5 billion in at least one of the four consecutive 
10-year periods beginning in 2026.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 1994 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA.
    Previous CBO estimate: On July 15, 2015, CBO transmitted a 
cost estimate for H.R. 571, the Veterans Affairs Retaliation 
Prevention Act of 2015, as ordered reported by the House 
Committee on Veterans Affairs on May 21, 2015. Sections 4 
through 8 of H.R. 1994 are similar to sections 2 through 6 of 
H.R. 571, and differences in estimated costs or savings reflect 
differences in the bills' language.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal Costs: Dwayne M. Wright; 
Impact on State, Local, and Tribal Governments: Jon Sperl; 
Impact on the Private Sector: Paige Piper-Bach.
    Estimate approved by: H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopts as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates regarding H.R. 1994, as amended, prepared by the 
Director of the Congressional Budget Office pursuant to section 
423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committees within the meaning of section 5(b) 
of the Federal Advisory Committee Act would be created by H.R. 
1994, as amended.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to Article I, section 8 of the United States 
Constitution, the reported bill is authorized by Congress' 
power to ``provide for the common Defense and general Welfare 
of the United States.''

                  Applicability to Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act.

              Statement on Duplication of Federal Programs

    Pursuant to section 3(g) of H. Res. 5, 114th Cong. (2015), 
the Committee finds that no provision of H.R. 1994, as amended, 
establishes or reauthorizes a program of the Federal Government 
known to be duplicative of another Federal program, a program 
that was included in any report from the Government 
Accountability Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of 
Public Law 111-139, or a program related to a program 
identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance.

                   Disclosure of Directed Rulemaking

    Pursuant to section 3(i) of H. Res. 5, 114th Cong. (2015), 
the Committee estimates that H.R. 1994, as amended, contains 
limited directed rule making under section three that would 
require the Secretary to prescribe regulations on how to assess 
if the employee performance during their probationary period 
warrants final appointment to the civil service.

             Section-by-Section Analysis of the Legislation


Section 1. Short title

    Section 1 cites the short title of H.R. 1994, as amended, 
to be the ``VA Accountability Act of 2015''

Section 2. Removal or demotion of employees based on performance or 
        misconduct

    Section 2(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., to 
create a new chapter 715 entitled, ``Employees: removal or 
demotion based on performance or misconduct.''
    Sec. 715(a) would provide the Secretary with the authority 
to remove, or demote to a lower paygrade, any VA employee for 
poor performance or misconduct.
    Sec. 715(b) would require that if an individual has been 
demoted under section 715(a), that the new annual rate of pay 
begins on the date of their demotion. The section would further 
require that if an individual appeals their demotion or 
removal, he or she would not be allowed to remain on any 
category of paid leave during this appeal.
    Sec. 715(c) would require the Secretary, by no later than 
thirty days after removing or demoting an individual under 
section 715(a), to submit a written notification to Congress on 
the reasons for the removal or demotion of the individual.
    Sec. 715(d) would require that the procedures set up by 
section 7513(b) and chapter 43 of title 5, U.S.C., shall not 
apply to any removal or demotion under this section. This 
section would also authorize individuals to appeal their 
removal or demotion to the MSPB under 7701 of title 5, U.S.C., 
only if they file such appeal within seven days of their 
removal or demotion.
    Sec. 715(e) would set up an expedited process for reviewing 
appeals made by employees, who are removed or demoted under 
this section, to the MSPB. Under this procedure an 
administrative judge of the MSPB would have 45 days to issue a 
decision after an appeal has been filed. Notwithstanding any 
other provision of law, this decision would be final and would 
not be subject to any further appeal. When a decision is not 
issued by the MSPB in 45 days, the Secretary's decision to 
remove or demote the employee is final. In these cases, the 
MSPB would be required to submit a report to Congress within 14 
days explaining why a decision on the appeal was not issued 
within 45 days. Under this section, the MSPB or administrative 
judge may not stay any removal or demotion. Additionally, an 
individual who is removed or demoted under section 715(a) would 
not be able to receive any type of pay, bonuses, student loan 
repayment, or benefits during the appeal process that would be 
set up by this section. Finally, this section would require VA, 
to the maximum extent possible, to provide information to 
assist the MSPB in an expedited appeal.
    Sec. 715(f) would preclude VA from demoting or removing an 
individual under this section until any whistleblower complaint 
filed by the individual to OSC or the VA central whistleblower 
office set up by section 732(h) of this title has been resolved 
and finalized.
    Sec. 715(g) would, notwithstanding any other provision of 
law, authorize OSC to terminate an investigation of a 
prohibited personnel practice alleged by a VA employee or 
former VA employee once they provide a written statement 
explaining the reasons for the termination of the 
investigation. Such written statement would not be admissible 
as evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding 
without the consent of the employee or former employee.
    Sec. 715(h) would clarify that the authority to remove or 
demote an individual is in addition to the authority provided 
by subchapter V of chapter 75 and chapter 43 of title 5, U.S.C.
    Sec. 715(i) would provide definitions of terms used in the 
new section 715. An ``individual'' would be defined as someone 
who holds a position at VA, but would not include members of 
the Senior Executive Service or a political appointee. The term 
``grade'' would be defined as the meaning given to that term by 
7511(a) of title 5, U.S.C. The term ``misconduct'' would 
include neglect of duty, malfeasance, or failure to accept a 
direct reassignment of to accompany a position in a transfer or 
function. The term ``political appointee'' would include: 
employees in a position described by section 5312 through 5316 
of title 5, U.S.C; a limited appointee: a limited emergency 
appointee: or non-career appointee in the Senior Executive 
Service defined by paragraphs five, six, and seven of section 
3132(a) of title 5, U.S.C.; or an individual who is employed in 
a position of a confidential or policy-determining character 
under schedule C of subpart C of part 213 of title 5 of the 
Code of Federal Regulations.

Section 3. Required probationary period for new employees of Department 
        of Veteran Affairs

    Section 3(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., by 
creating a new section 717 entitled, ``Probationary period for 
employees.''
    Sec. 717(a) would require, notwithstanding sections 3321 
and 2293(d) of title 5, U.S.C., that the appointment of a 
covered employee would only become final after the employee has 
completed a probationary period of 18 months. Under this 
section, this period could be extended at the discretion of the 
Secretary.
    Sec. 717(b) would define the term ``covered individual'' as 
any employee who is appointed to a permanent position within 
the Department or is appointed as a career SES employee. 
Medical professionals appointed to the Department by section 
7403 of title 38, U.S.C., would not be subject to this section.
    Sec. 717(c) would authorize that at the end of the 
probationary period set forth by 717(a) the employee's 
supervisor would make the final determination if the employee's 
appointment shall become final based on regulations prescribed 
by the Secretary.
    Section 3(b) would clarify that the new section 717 of 
title 38, U.S.C., would apply only to employees who were 
appointed after the date of enactment of this act.

Section 4. Treatment of whistleblower complaints in the Department of 
        Veterans Affairs

    Section 4(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., to 
create a new subchapter II on Whistleblower Complaints. Sec. 
731 of this new subchapter would define the term 
``whistleblower complaint'' similar to a ``disclosure'' defined 
by section 2302 of title 5, U.S.C.
    Sec. 732(a) would provide VA employees with another method 
to file complaints, in addition to any other method established 
by law, where an employee would begin by filing the complaint 
with the first-level supervisor of that employee.
    Sec. 732(b) would require a supervisor who receives a 
complaint to respond in writing to an employee who filed that 
complaint within four business days whether the supervisor 
reasonably believes the complaint likely disclosed an issue 
described in the definition of a whistleblower complaint. This 
section would also require the supervisor to retain written 
documentation on the complaint and submit a written report to 
the supervisor's next level supervisor, as well as the VA 
central whistleblower office. Additionally, each supervisor 
would be required to submit a monthly written report to the 
director of the facility in which the supervisor works, as well 
as to the VA central whistleblower office, outlining the number 
of complaints received and actions taken to correct them.
    Sec. 732(c) would require a supervisor who makes a 
determination that a whistleblower complaint has merit to 
include, in the written response required, within the same four 
day period, the actions the supervisor will take to correct the 
problems described in the complaint.
    Sec. 732(d) would allow employees to make complaints to 
their next-level supervisor, and with each level supervisor 
thereafter, if the previous-level supervisor does not make a 
timely determination, the employee determines that supervisor 
did not adequately address the complaint, or if the first-level 
supervisor is the basis of the complaint.
    Sec. 732(e) would require the Secretary to inform an 
employee who makes a complaint, and where the supervisor 
determines it has merit, of the ability to voluntarily transfer 
to another position according to section 3352 of title 5, 
U.S.C., and the Secretary must give that employee preference 
for such transfer.
    Sec. 732(f) would prohibit the Secretary from exempting any 
VA employee from being covered by these protections.
    Sec. 732(g) would require the Secretary to create, in 
coordination with the Office of Special Counsel, a 
whistleblower complaint form within sixty days of enactment to 
be used with the process created by this section of the bill. 
The form must contain specific fields for the employee to fill 
out related to an his/her complaint as well as: the purpose of 
the form, instructions for filling out the form, an explanation 
that filing in this manner does not preclude the employee from 
filing a complaint in any other manner established by law, and 
a statement directing the employee to the VA website which must 
contain relevant information for complaints.
    Sec. 732(h) would require the Secretary to ensure that VA's 
central whistleblower complaint office (currently the Office of 
Accountability Review, but also including any successor 
offices) will be responsible for investigating whistleblower 
complaints from any and all VA employees and cannot be an 
element of VA's General Counsel Office or headed by an official 
who reports to that office. This office must maintain a toll-
free anonymous hotline for reporting whistleblower complaints. 
Further, the central whistleblower complaint office must not 
provide, or receive from the General Counsel Office information 
related to any whistleblower complaint, except if the complaint 
is currently before an administrative body or court.
    Sec. 733(a) would require a supervisor who is found to have 
committed a prohibited personnel action against an employee for 
filing a whistleblower complaint to face adverse actions 
ranging from a 14-day suspension to termination for a first 
offense, and termination for a second offense. Further, the 
expedited merit system process provisions found in subsection 
(d) and (e) of section 713 of title 38, U.S.C., shall apply to 
all such effectuated adverse actions. A supervisor who is 
subject to an adverse employment action will have five days to 
respond to a notification of proposed action, and if the 
supervisor's response is inadequate or untimely, the adverse 
employee action will take effect.
    Sec. 733(b) would dictate that, if the Secretary carries 
out an adverse action against a supervisory employee, the 
Secretary may carry out an additional adverse action under this 
section based on the same prohibited personnel action if the 
total severity of the adverse actions does not exceed the 
levels prescribed in this section.
    Sec. 733(c) would define the different actions that would 
be deemed a ``prohibited personnel action'' if undertaken by a 
supervisory employee, including taking or failing to take an 
employment action against an employee for filing a 
whistleblower complaint in accordance with Sec 732, filing a 
complaint with, providing information to, or participating as a 
witness for the Office of Inspector General, Office of Special 
Counsel, Government Accountability Office, or Congress, 
refusing to perform an unlawful or prohibited act, or engaging 
in communications related to the employee's work. A prohibited 
personnel action under this section also includes preventing 
another employee from filing a complaint, conducting a sham 
peer review or retaliatory investigation, or requesting a 
contractor carry out an action prohibited under sections 4705 
or 4712 of title 41, U.S.C.
    Sec. 734(a) would require that the criteria used to 
evaluate the performance of a supervisor include whether the 
supervisor treats whistleblower complaints appropriately under 
Section 2 or whether the supervisor committed any prohibited 
personnel actions.
    Sec. 734(b) would prohibit the Secretary from paying a 
supervisor any award or bonus for a one-year period, and would 
require the Secretary to recoup any award or bonus from that 
supervisor received during the subject period, if that 
supervisor was found to have committed a prohibited personnel 
action described in Sec. 733. Recoupment of bonuses will be 
subject to the Secretary's discretion as to appropriateness, 
and the subject supervisor must be provided notice and an 
opportunity for a hearing.
    Sec. 735(a) would require the Secretary to coordinate with 
the Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman of the VA OIG to provide 
annual training to all VA employees regarding each method 
established by law by which they can file whistleblower 
complaints, what types of actions are deemed prohibited 
personnel actions, how supervisors must treat complaints, and 
various additional rights employees have when making 
complaints.
    Sec. 735(b) would require annual training regarding 
whistleblower complaints to be in compliance with OSC training 
standards.
    Sec. 735(c) would require the Secretary to publish on VA's 
website, and display at each VA facility, employees' rights to 
file complaints and all information required to be provided to 
employees in the annual training. Additionally, the Secretary 
would be required to make the whistleblower complaint form 
available on VA's website.
    Sec. 736(a) would require VA provide the House and Senate 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs, the House Committee on 
Oversight and Government Reform, and the Senate Committee on 
Homeland Security and Government Affairs with annual reports 
regarding whistleblower complaints, including: the number of 
complaints filed that year, the method of filing those 
complaints, the disposition of the complaints, and the ways the 
Secretary addressed those complaints.
    Sec. 736(b) would require the Secretary to notify the House 
and Senate Committees on Veterans' Affairs, the House Committee 
on Oversight and Government Reform, and the Senate Committee on 
Homeland Security and Government Affairs within thirty days of 
receiving information from the OSC relating to a whistleblower 
complaint.
    Section 4(b) would provide conforming and clerical 
amendments.

Section 5. Reform of performance appraisal system for Senior Executive 
        Service employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 5(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., to 
require the Secretary to provide five annual summary ratings of 
levels of performance for SES employees as follows: (1) an 
``outstanding'' level; (2) an ``exceeds fully successful'' 
level; (3) a ``fully successful'' level; (4) a ``minimally 
satisfactory'' level; and (5) an ``unsatisfactory'' level. This 
section would also require the Secretary to place not more than 
10 percent of SES employees in the ``outstanding'' level and 
not more than 20 percent of SES employees in the ``exceeds 
fully successful'' level. The Secretary would also be required 
to take into consideration the results of any OIG 
investigations or EEO complaints filed against the employee, or 
related to any facility or program managed by the employee, 
when evaluating their performance. Section 5(a) would also 
require the Secretary to take into consideration a SES 
employee's efforts to maintain his or her employees' levels of 
satisfaction and performance when evaluating their performance. 
This section would also require the Secretary to reassign SES 
employees to other locations throughout VA at least once every 
five years and would require the Secretary to do so on a 
rolling basis. The Secretary would be given authority to waive 
the requirement for SES employees to be reassigned if the 
Secretary submits a report to the House and Senate Committees 
on Veterans' Affairs explaining the need for such waiver. 
Finally, section 5(a) would require the Secretary to annually 
provide to the House and Senate Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs, the House Committee on Oversight and Government 
Reform, and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and 
Government Affairs, a report on all SES performance evaluations 
from the prior year, including the following: (1) the initial 
performance appraisal; (2) the higher level review; (3) the 
recommendations given by the performance review board; (4) the 
final summary; (5) the amount of initial performance ratings 
that were increased to a higher rating following the 
recommendations of the performance review board; (6) the amount 
of initial performance ratings that were decreased to a lower 
rating following the recommendations of the performance review 
board; and (7) any adverse actions made against an employee who 
earns a less than fully successful performance rating.
    Section 5(b) would require the Secretary to enter into a 
contract with a non-governmental entity to review management 
training programs that are currently in place for SES 
employees. This section would require the Secretary to enter 
into this contract no later than 180 days following enactment 
and would require the review to compare these VA management 
training courses to other Federal agencies and private sector 
executive training programs. This section would also require 
the Secretary to provide, to the House and Senate Committees on 
Veterans' Affairs, the final report from the nongovernmental 
entity no later than 60 days after the Secretary receives it, 
as well as a plan for carrying out recommendations made in the 
final report.

Section 6. Reduction of benefits for members of the Senior Executive 
        Service within the Department of Veterans Affairs convicted of 
        certain crimes

    Section 6(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., to 
allow the Secretary to reduce an SES employee's retirement 
benefits upon the employee's conviction of a felony that 
influenced their work performance by reducing that period of 
service creditable to their pension. The Secretary's authority 
would be limited to the reduction of the time that is 
creditable to the employees' service based on the dates and 
time of the actions that led to the conviction and removal. 
Section 6(a) would also require that any contributions made by 
the individual to their pension during the period for which 
they would not receive credit towards their pensions be 
refunded to them in a lump sum.
    Section 6(b) would apply the authority provided by section 
6(a) to any action of removal or transfer made under section 
713 of title 38, U.S.C., made on or after the date of 
enactment.
    Section 6(c) would create the following at the beginning of 
chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., in the table of sections, ``715, 
Senior executives reduction of benefits of individuals 
convicted of certain crimes.''

Section 7. Limitation on administrative leave for employees Department 
        of Veteran Affairs

    Section 7(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., and 
create a new section, 719, which would prescribe that the 
Secretary may not place any employee on paid administrative 
leave, or any other type of a paid non-duty status, for longer 
than 14 days during any 365 day period. This section would 
allow the Secretary to waive this authority, but would require 
that he or she submit to the House and Senate Committees on 
Veterans' Affairs, a detailed explanation of why he or she 
extended this period beyond the 14-day mark. This section would 
only apply to employees who are subject to an investigation to 
determine if disciplinary action is warranted.
    Section 7(b) would make the authority provided in section 
7(a) applicable to any removal or transfer under section 713 of 
title 38, U.S.C., or under title 5, U.S.C., commencing on or 
after the date of enactment.

Section 8. Treatment of congressional testimony by Department of 
        veteran affairs employees as official duty

    Section 8(a) would amend chapter 7 of title 38, U.S.C., by 
creating a new section, 725. Sec. 725(a) would state that any 
VA employee who is testifying in front of either house of 
Congress, a committee of either House of Congress, or a joint 
or select committee of Congress would be considered to be on 
official duty for providing such testimony.
    Sec. 725(b) would require the Secretary to provide any VA 
employee performing official duty described in Section 725(a) 
with travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of 
subsistence, in accordance with applicable provisions under 
subchapter I of chapter 57 of title 5, U.S.C.

Section 9. Limitation on awards and bonuses paid to employees of the 
        Department of Veterans Affairs

    Section 9 would amend section 705 of P.L. 113-146, to cap 
the amount of money paid by the Secretary for any bonuses or 
awards paid to employees under chapters 45 or 53 of title 5, 
U.S.C., or any awards or bonuses authorized in title 38, U.S.C. 
Under this section, the cap for each fiscal year between 2015 
and 2018 shall not exceed $300,000,000 and for each fiscal year 
between 2019-2024, the amount shall not exceed $360,000,000.

Section 10. Comptroller General study on Department of time and space 
        used for labor organizational activity

    Section 10(a) would require that no later than 180 days 
after the date of enactment of this section that the U.S. 
Comptroller General completes a study on the amount of time 
spent by VA employees in carrying out organizing activities 
relating to labor organizations and amount of space in VA 
facilities used for such activities. The study would also 
include a cost-benefit analysis of such time and space used for 
such activities.
    Section 10(b) would require that, not later than 90 days 
after the completion of the study required under section 10(a), 
the U.S. Comptroller General submit a report on the results of 
the study to Congress.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, and existing law in which no 
change is proposed is shown in roman):

                      TITLE 38, UNITED STATES CODE



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
PART I--GENERAL PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                          CHAPTER 7--EMPLOYEES

Sec.

                 subchapter i--general employee matters

701. Placement of employees in military installations.
     * * * * * * *
715. Employees: removal or demotion based on performance or misconduct.
717. Probationary period for employees.
719. Senior executives: performance appraisal.
721. Senior executives: reduction of benefits of individuals convicted 
          of certain crimes.
723. Limitation on administrative leave.
725. Congressional testimony by employees: treatment as official duty.

                 subchapter ii--whistleblower complaints

731. Whistleblower complaint defined.
732. Treatment of whistleblower complaints.
733. Adverse actions against supervisory employees who commit prohibited 
          personnel actions relating to whistleblower complaints.
734. Evaluation criteria of supervisors and treatment of bonuses.
735. Training regarding whistleblower complaints.
736. Reports to Congress.
     * * * * * * *

                 SUBCHAPTER I--GENEARL EMPLOYEE MATTERS

Sec. 701. Placement of employees in military installations

  The Secretary may place employees of the Department in such 
Army, Navy, and Air Force installations as may be considered 
advisable for the purpose of adjudicating disability claims of, 
and giving aid and advice to, members of the Armed Forces who 
are about to be discharged or released from active military, 
naval, or air service.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 715. Employees: removal or demotion based on performance or 
                    misconduct

  (a) In General.--The Secretary may remove or demote an 
individual who is an employee of the Department if the 
Secretary determines the performance or misconduct of the 
individual warrants such removal or demotion. If the Secretary 
so removes or demotes such an individual, the Secretary may--
          (1) remove the individual from the civil service (as 
        defined in section 2101 of title 5); or
          (2) demote the individual by means of--
                  (A) a reduction in grade for which the 
                individual is qualified and that the Secretary 
                determines is appropriate; or
                  (B) a reduction in annual rate of pay that 
                the Secretary determines is appropriate.
  (b) Pay of Certain Demoted Individuals.--(1) Notwithstanding 
any other provision of law, any individual subject to a 
demotion under subsection (a)(2)(A) shall, beginning on the 
date of such demotion, receive the annual rate of pay 
applicable to such grade.
  (2) An individual so demoted may not be placed on 
administrative leave or any other category of paid leave during 
the period during which an appeal (if any) under this section 
is ongoing, and may only receive pay if the individual reports 
for duty. If an individual so demoted does not report for duty, 
such individual shall not receive pay or other benefits 
pursuant to subsection (e)(5).
  (c) Notice to Congress.--Not later than 30 days after 
removing or demoting an individual under subsection (a), the 
Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs 
of the Senate and House of Representatives notice in writing of 
such removal or demotion and the reason for such removal or 
demotion.
  (d) Procedure.--(1) The procedures under section 7513(b) of 
title 5 and chapter 43 of such title shall not apply to a 
removal or demotion under this section.
  (2)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B) and subsection (e), any 
removal or demotion under subsection (a) may be appealed to the 
Merit Systems Protection Board under section 7701 of title 5.
  (B) An appeal under subparagraph (A) of a removal or demotion 
may only be made if such appeal is made not later than seven 
days after the date of such removal or demotion.
  (e) Expedited Review by Administrative Judge.--(1) Upon 
receipt of an appeal under subsection (d)(2)(A), the Merit 
Systems Protection Board shall refer such appeal to an 
administrative judge pursuant to section 7701(b)(1) of title 5. 
The administrative judge shall expedite any such appeal under 
such section and, in any such case, shall issue a decision not 
later than 45 days after the date of the appeal.
  (2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including 
section 7703 of title 5, the decision of an administrative 
judge under paragraph (1) shall be final and shall not be 
subject to any further appeal.
  (3) In any case in which the administrative judge cannot 
issue a decision in accordance with the 45-day requirement 
under paragraph (1), the removal or demotion is final. In such 
a case, the Merit Systems Protection Board shall, within 14 
days after the date that such removal or demotion is final, 
submit to Congress and the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of 
the Senate and House of Representatives a report that explains 
the reasons why a decision was not issued in accordance with 
such requirement.
  (4) The Merit Systems Protection Board or administrative 
judge may not stay any removal or demotion under this section.
  (5) During the period beginning on the date on which an 
individual appeals a removal from the civil service under 
subsection (d) and ending on the date that the administrative 
judge issues a final decision on such appeal, such individual 
may not receive any pay, awards, bonuses, incentives, 
allowances, differentials, student loan repayments, special 
payments, or benefits.
  (6) To the maximum extent practicable, the Secretary shall 
provide to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and to any 
administrative judge to whom an appeal under this section is 
referred, such information and assistance as may be necessary 
to ensure an appeal under this subsection is expedited.
  (f) Whistleblower Protection.--(1) In the case of an 
individual seeking corrective action (or on behalf of whom 
corrective action is sought) from the Office of Special Counsel 
based on an alleged prohibited personnel practice described in 
section 2302(b) of title 5, the Secretary may not remove or 
demote such individual under subsection (a) without the 
approval of the Special Counsel under section 1214(f) of title 
5.
  (2) In the case of an individual who has filed a 
whistleblower complaint, as such term is defined in section 731 
of this title, the Secretary may not remove or demote such 
individual under subsection (a) until the central whistleblower 
office under section 732(h) of this title has made a final 
decision with respect to the whistleblower complaint.
  (g) Termination of Investigations by Office of Special 
Counsel.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the 
Special Counsel (established by section 1211 of title 5) may 
terminate an investigation of a prohibited personnel practice 
alleged by an employee or former employee of the Department 
after the Special Counsel provides to the employee or former 
employee a written statement of the reasons for the termination 
of the investigation. Such statement may not be admissible as 
evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding without 
the consent of such employee or former employee.
  (h) Relation to Title 5.--The authority provided by this 
section is in addition to the authority provided by subchapter 
V of chapter 75 of title 5 and chapter 43 of such title.
  (i) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) The term ``individual'' means an individual 
        occupying a position at the Department but does not 
        include--
                  (A) an individual, as that term is defined in 
                section 713(g)(1); or
                  (B) a political appointee.
          (2) The term ``grade'' has the meaning given such 
        term in section 7511(a) of title 5.
          (3) The term ``misconduct'' includes neglect of duty, 
        malfeasance, or failure to accept a directed 
        reassignment or to accompany a position in a transfer 
        of function.
          (4) The term ``political appointee'' means an 
        individual who is--
                  (A) employed in a position described under 
                sections 5312 through 5316 of title 5 (relating 
                to the Executive Schedule);
                  (B) a limited term appointee, limited 
                emergency appointee, or noncareer appointee in 
                the Senior Executive Service, as defined under 
                paragraphs (5), (6), and (7), respectively, of 
                section 3132(a) of title 5; or
                  (C) employed in a position of a confidential 
                or policy-determining character under schedule 
                C of subpart C of part 213 of title 5 of the 
                Code of Federal Regulations.

Sec. 717. Probationary period for employees

  (a) In General.--Notwithstanding sections 3321 and 3393(d) of 
title 5, the appointment of a covered employee shall become 
final only after such employee has served a probationary period 
of 18 months. The Secretary may extend a probationary period 
under this subsection at the discretion of the Secretary.
  (b) Covered Employee.--In this section, the term ``covered 
employee''--
          (1) means any individual--
                  (A) appointed to a permanent position within 
                the competitive service at the Department; or
                  (B) appointed as a career appointee (as that 
                term is defined in section 3132(a)(4) of title 
                5) within the Senior Executive Service at the 
                Department; and
          (2) does not include any individual with a 
        probationary period prescribed by section 7403 of this 
        title.
  (c) Permanent Hires.--Upon the expiration of a covered 
employee's probationary period under subsection (a), the 
supervisor of the employee shall determine whether the 
appointment becomes final based on regulations prescribed for 
such purpose by the Secretary.

Sec. 719. Senior executives: performance appraisal

  (a) Performance Appraisal System.--(1) The performance 
appraisal system for individuals employed in senior executive 
positions in the Department required by section 4312 of title 5 
shall provide, in addition to the requirements of such section, 
for five annual summary ratings of levels of performance as 
follows:
          (A) One outstanding level.
          (B) One exceeds fully successful level.
          (C) One fully successful level.
          (D) One minimally satisfactory level.
          (E) One unsatisfactory level.
  (2) The following limitations apply to the rating of the 
performance of such individuals:
          (A) For any year, not more than 10 percent of such 
        individuals who receive a performance rating during 
        that year may receive the outstanding level under 
        paragraph (1)(A).
          (B) For any year, not more than 20 percent of such 
        individuals who receive a performance rating during 
        that year may receive the exceeds fully successful 
        level under paragraph (1)(B).
  (3) In evaluating the performance of an individual under the 
performance appraisal system, the Secretary shall take into 
consideration--
          (A) any complaint or report (including any pending or 
        published report) submitted by the Inspector General of 
        the Department, the Comptroller General of the United 
        States, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or 
        any other appropriate person or entity, related to any 
        facility or program managed by the individual, as 
        determined by the Secretary;
          (B) efforts made by the individual to maintain high 
        levels of satisfaction and commitment among the 
        employees supervised by the individual; and
          (C) the criteria described in section 734(a)(2) of 
        this title.
  (b) Change of Position.--(1) At least once every five years, 
the Secretary shall reassign each individual employed in a 
senior executive position to a position at a different location 
that does not include the supervision of the same personnel or 
programs. The Secretary shall make such reassignments on a 
rolling basis based on the date on which an individual was 
originally assigned to a position.
  (2) The Secretary may waive the requirement under paragraph 
(1) for any such individual, if the Secretary submits to the 
Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and House of 
Representatives notice of the waiver and an explanation of the 
reasons for the waiver.
  (c) Report.--Not later than March 1 of each year, the 
Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs 
and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate 
and the Committees on Veterans' Affairs and Oversight and 
Government Reform of the House of Representatives a report on 
the performance appraisal system of the Department under 
subsection (a). Each such report shall include, for the year 
preceding the year during which the report is submitted, each 
of the following:
          (1) All documentation concerning each of the 
        following for each individual employed in a senior 
        executive position in the Department:
                  (A) The initial performance appraisal.
                  (B) The higher level review, if requested.
                  (C) The recommendations of the performance 
                review board.
                  (D) The final summary review.
                  (E) The number of initial performance ratings 
                raised as a result of the recommendations of 
                the performance review board.
                  (F) The number of initial performance ratings 
                lowered as a result of the recommendations of 
                the performance review board.
                  (G) Any adverse action taken against any such 
                individual who receives a performance rating of 
                less than fully successful.
          (2) The review of the Inspector General of the 
        Department of the information described in 
        subparagraphs (A) through (D) of paragraph (1).
          (3) A summary of the documentation provided under 
        paragraph (1).
  (d) Definition of Senior Executive Position.--In this 
section, the term ``senior executive position'' has the meaning 
given that term in section 713(g)(3) of this title.

Sec. 721. Senior executives: reduction of benefits of individuals 
                    convicted of certain crimes

  (a) Reduction of Annuity for Removed Employee.--The Secretary 
shall order that the covered service of an individual removed 
from a senior executive position under section 713 of this 
title shall not be taken into account for purposes of 
calculating an annuity with respect to such individual under 
chapter 83 or chapter 84 of title 5, if--
          (1) the individual is convicted of a felony that 
        influenced the individual's performance while employed 
        in the senior executive position; and
          (2) before such order is made, the individual is 
        afforded notice and an opportunity for a hearing 
        conducted by another department or agency of the 
        Federal Government.
  (b) Reduction of Annuity for Retired Employee.--(1) The 
Secretary may order that the covered service of an individual 
who is subject to a removal or transfer action under section 
713 of this title but who leaves employment at the Department 
prior to the issuance of a final decision with respect to such 
action shall not be taken into account for purposes of 
calculating an annuity with respect to such individual under 
chapter 83 or chapter 84 of title 5, if--
          (A) the individual is convicted of a felony that 
        influenced the individual's performance while employed 
        in the senior executive position; and
          (B) before such order is made, the individual is 
        afforded notice and an opportunity for a hearing 
        conducted by another department or agency of the 
        Federal Government.
  (2) The Secretary shall make such an order not later than 
seven days after the date of the conclusion of a hearing 
referred to in paragraph (1)(B) that determines that such order 
is lawful.
  (c) Administrative Requirements.--(1) Not later than 30 days 
after the Secretary issues an order under subsection (a) or 
(b), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management shall 
recalculate the annuity of the individual.
  (2) A decision regarding whether the covered service of an 
individual shall be taken into account for purposes of 
calculating an annuity under subsection (a) or (b) is final and 
may not be reviewed by any department or agency or any court.
  (d) Lump-sum Annuity Credit.--Any individual with respect to 
whom an annuity is reduced under subsection (a) or (b) shall be 
entitled to be paid so much of such individual's lump-sum 
credit as is attributable to the period of covered service.
  (e) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) The term ``covered service'' means, with respect 
        to an individual subject to a removal or transfer 
        action under section 713 of this title, the period of 
        service beginning on the date that the Secretary 
        determines under such section that such individual 
        engaged in activity that gave rise to such action and 
        ending on the date that such individual is removed from 
        the civil service or leaves employment at the 
        Department prior to the issuance of a final decision 
        with respect to such action, as the case may be.
          (2) The term ``lump-sum credit'' has the meaning 
        given such term in section 8331(8) or section 8401(19) 
        of title 5, as the case may be.
          (3) The term ``senior executive position'' has the 
        meaning given such term in section 713(g)(3) of this 
        title.
          (4) The term ``service'' has the meaning given such 
        term in section 8331(12) or section 8401(26) of title 
        5, as the case may be.

Sec. 723. Limitation on administrative leave

  (a) In General.--Except as provided in subsection (b), the 
Secretary may not place any covered individual on 
administrative leave, or any other type of paid non-duty status 
without charge to leave, for more than a total of 14 days 
during any 365-day period.
  (b) Waiver.--The Secretary may waive the limitation under 
subsection (a) and extend the administrative leave or other 
paid non-duty status without charge to leave of a covered 
individual placed on such leave or status under subsection (a) 
if the Secretary submits to the Committees on Veterans' Affairs 
of the Senate and House of Representatives a detailed 
explanation of the reasons the individual was placed on 
administrative leave or other paid non-duty status without 
charge to leave and the reasons for the extension of such leave 
or status. Such explanation shall include the name of the 
covered individual, the location where the individual is 
employed, and the individual's job title.
  (c) Covered Individual.--In this subsection, the term 
``covered individual'' means an employee of the Department--
          (1) who is subject to an investigation for purposes 
        of determining whether such individual should be 
        subject to any disciplinary action under this title or 
        title 5; or
          (2) against whom any disciplinary action is proposed 
        or initiated under this title or title 5.

Sec. 725. Congressional testimony by employees: treatment as official 
                    duty

  (a) Congressional Testimony.--An employee of the Department 
is performing official duty during the period with respect to 
which the employee is testifying in an official capacity in 
front of either House of Congress, a committee of either House 
of Congress, or a joint or select committee of Congress.
  (b) Travel Expenses.--The Secretary shall provide travel 
expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, in 
accordance with applicable provisions under subchapter I of 
chapter 57 of title 5, to any employee of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs performing official duty described under 
subsection (a).

                SUBCHAPTER II--WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINTS

Sec. 731. Whistleblower complaint defined

  In this subchapter, the term ``whistleblower complaint'' 
means a complaint by an employee of the Department disclosing, 
or assisting another employee to disclose, a potential 
violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or gross 
mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or 
substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.

Sec. 732. Treatment of whistleblower complaints

  (a) Filing.--(1) In addition to any other method established 
by law in which an employee may file a whistleblower complaint, 
an employee of the Department may file a whistleblower 
complaint in accordance with subsection (g) with a supervisor 
of the employee.
  (2) Except as provided by subsection (d)(1), in making a 
whistleblower complaint under paragraph (1), an employee shall 
file the initial complaint with the immediate supervisor of the 
employee.
  (b) Notification.--(1) Not later than four business days 
after the date on which a supervisor receives a whistleblower 
complaint by an employee under this section, the supervisor 
shall notify, in writing, the employee of whether the 
supervisor determines that there is a reasonable likelihood 
that the complaint discloses a violation of any law, rule, or 
regulation, or gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse 
of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public 
health and safety. The supervisor shall retain written 
documentation regarding the whistleblower complaint and shall 
submit to the next-level supervisor and the central 
whistleblower office described in subsection (h) a written 
report on the complaint.
  (2) On a monthly basis, the supervisor shall submit to the 
appropriate director or other official who is superior to the 
supervisor a written report that includes the number of 
whistleblower complaints received by the supervisor under this 
section during the month covered by the report, the disposition 
of such complaints, and any actions taken because of such 
complaints pursuant to subsection (c). In the case in which 
such a director or official carries out this paragraph, the 
director or official shall submit such monthly report to the 
supervisor of the director or official and to the central 
whistleblower office described in subsection (h).
  (c) Positive Determination.--If a supervisor makes a positive 
determination under subsection (b)(1) regarding a whistleblower 
complaint of an employee, the supervisor shall include in the 
notification to the employee under such subsection the specific 
actions that the supervisor will take to address the complaint.
  (d) Filing Complaint With Next-level Supervisors.--(1) If any 
circumstance described in paragraph (3) is met, an employee may 
file a whistleblower complaint in accordance with subsection 
(g) with the next-level supervisor who shall treat such 
complaint in accordance with this section.
  (2) An employee may file a whistleblower complaint with the 
Secretary if the employee has filed the whistleblower complaint 
to each level of supervisors between the employee and the 
Secretary in accordance with paragraph (1).
  (3) A circumstance described in this paragraph are any of the 
following circumstances:
          (A) A supervisor does not make a timely determination 
        under subsection (b)(1) regarding a whistleblower 
        complaint.
          (B) The employee who made a whistleblower complaint 
        determines that the supervisor did not adequately 
        address the complaint pursuant to subsection (c).
          (C) The immediate supervisor of the employee is the 
        basis of the whistleblower complaint.
  (e) Transfer of Employee Who Files Whistleblower Complaint.--
If a supervisor makes a positive determination under subsection 
(b)(1) regarding a whistleblower complaint filed by an 
employee, the Secretary shall--
          (1) inform the employee of the ability to volunteer 
        for a transfer in accordance with section 3352 of title 
        5; and
          (2) give preference to the employee for such a 
        transfer in accordance with such section.
  (f) Prohibition on Exemption.--The Secretary may not exempt 
any employee of the Department from being covered by this 
section.
  (g) Whistleblower Complaint Form.--(1) A whistleblower 
complaint filed by an employee under subsection (a) or (d) 
shall consist of the form described in paragraph (2) and any 
supporting materials or documentation the employee determines 
necessary.
  (2) The form described in this paragraph is a form developed 
by the Secretary, in consultation with the Special Counsel, 
that includes the following:
          (A) An explanation of the purpose of the 
        whistleblower complaint form.
          (B) Instructions for filing a whistleblower complaint 
        as described in this section.
          (C) An explanation that filing a whistleblower 
        complaint under this section does not preclude the 
        employee from any other method established by law in 
        which an employee may file a whistleblower complaint.
          (D) A statement directing the employee to information 
        accessible on the Internet website of the Department as 
        described in section 735(c).
          (E) Fields for the employee to provide--
                  (i) the date that the form is submitted;
                  (ii) the name of the employee;
                  (iii) the contact information of the 
                employee;
                  (iv) a summary of the whistleblower complaint 
                (including the option to append supporting 
                documents pursuant to paragraph (1)); and
                  (v) proposed solutions to complaint.
          (F) Any other information or fields that the 
        Secretary determines appropriate.
  (3) The Secretary, in consultation with the Special Counsel, 
shall develop the form described in paragraph (2) by not later 
than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this section.
  (h) Central Whistleblower Office.--(1) The Secretary shall 
ensure that the central whistleblower office--
          (A) is not an element of the Office of the General 
        Counsel;
          (B) is not headed by an official who reports to the 
        General Counsel;
          (C) does not provide, or receive from, the General 
        Counsel any information regarding a whistleblower 
        complaint except pursuant to an action regarding the 
        complaint before an administrative body or court; and
          (D) does not provide advice to the General Counsel.
  (2) The central whistleblower office shall be responsible for 
investigating all whistleblower complaints of the Department, 
regardless of whether such complaints are made by or against an 
employee who is not a member of the Senior Executive Service.
  (3) The Secretary shall ensure that the central whistleblower 
office maintains a toll-free hotline to anonymously receive 
whistleblower complaints.
  (4) In this subsection, the term ``central whistleblower 
office'' means the Office of Accountability Review or a 
successor office that is established or designated by the 
Secretary to investigate whistleblower complaints filed under 
this section or any other method established by law.

Sec. 733. Adverse actions against supervisory employees who commit 
                    prohibited personnel actions relating to 
                    whistleblower complaints

  (a) In General.--(1) In accordance with paragraph (2), the 
Secretary shall carry out the following adverse actions against 
supervisory employees whom the Secretary, an administrative 
judge, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Office of 
Special Counsel, an adjudicating body provided under a union 
contract, a Federal judge, or the Inspector General of the 
Department determines committed a prohibited personnel action 
described in subsection (c):
          (A) With respect to the first offense, an adverse 
        action that is not less than a 14-day suspension and 
        not more than removal.
          (B) With respect to the second offense, removal.
  (2)(A) Except as provided by subparagraph (B), and 
notwithstanding subsections (b) and (c) of section 7513 and 
section 7543 of title 5, the provisions of subsections (d) and 
(e) of section 713 of this title shall apply with respect to an 
adverse action carried out under paragraph (1).
  (B) An employee who is notified of being the subject of a 
proposed adverse action under paragraph (1) may not be given 
more than five days following such notification to provide 
evidence to dispute such proposed adverse action. If the 
employee does not provide any such evidence, or if the 
Secretary determines that such evidence is not sufficient to 
reverse the determination to propose the adverse action, the 
Secretary shall carry out the adverse action following such 
five-day period.
  (b) Limitation on Other Adverse Actions.--With respect to a 
prohibited personnel action described in subsection (c), if the 
Secretary carries out an adverse action against a supervisory 
employee, the Secretary may carry out an additional adverse 
action under this section based on the same prohibited 
personnel action if the total severity of the adverse actions 
do not exceed the level specified in subsection (a).
  (c) Prohibited Personnel Action Described.--A prohibited 
personnel action described in this subsection is any of the 
following actions:
          (1) Taking or failing to take a personnel action in 
        violation of section 2302 of title 5 against an 
        employee relating to the employee--
                  (A) filing a whistleblower complaint in 
                accordance with section 732 of this title;
                  (B) filing a whistleblower complaint with the 
                Inspector General of the Department, the 
                Special Counsel, or Congress;
                  (C) providing information or participating as 
                a witness in an investigation of a 
                whistleblower complaint in accordance with 
                section 732 or with the Inspector General of 
                the Department, the Special Counsel, or 
                Congress;
                  (D) participating in an audit or 
                investigation by the Comptroller General of the 
                United States;
                  (E) refusing to perform an action that is 
                unlawful or prohibited by the Department; or
                  (F) engaging in communications that are 
                related to the duties of the position or are 
                otherwise protected.
          (2) Preventing or restricting an employee from making 
        an action described in any of subparagraphs (A) through 
        (F) of paragraph (1).
          (3) Conducting a peer review or opening a retaliatory 
        investigation relating to an activity of an employee 
        that is protected by section 2302 of title 5.
          (4) Requesting a contractor to carry out an action 
        that is prohibited by section 4705(b) or section 
        4712(a)(1) of title 41, as the case may be.

Sec. 734. Evaluation criteria of supervisors and treatment of bonuses

  (a) Evaluation Criteria.--(1) In evaluating the performance 
of supervisors of the Department, the Secretary shall include 
the criteria described in paragraph (2).
  (2) The criteria described in this subsection are the 
following:
          (A) Whether the supervisor treats whistleblower 
        complaints in accordance with section 732.
          (B) Whether the appropriate deciding official, 
        performance review board, or performance review 
        committee determines that the supervisor was found to 
        have committed a prohibited personnel action described 
        in section 733(b) by an administrative judge, the Merit 
        Systems Protection Board, the Office of Special 
        Counsel, an adjudicating body provided under a union 
        contract, a Federal judge, or, in the case of a 
        settlement of a whistleblower complaint (regardless of 
        whether any fault was assigned under such settlement), 
        the Secretary.
  (b) Bonuses.--(1) The Secretary may not pay to a supervisor 
described in subsection (a)(2)(B) an award or bonus under this 
title or title 5, including under chapter 45 or 53 of such 
title, during the one-year period beginning on the date on 
which the determination was made under such subsection.
  (2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary 
shall issue an order directing a supervisor described in 
subsection (a)(2)(B) to repay the amount of any award or bonus 
paid under this title or title 5, including under chapter 45 or 
53 of such title, if--
          (A) such award or bonus was paid for performance 
        during a period in which the supervisor committed a 
        prohibited personnel action as determined pursuant to 
        such subsection (a)(2)(B);
          (B) the Secretary determines such repayment 
        appropriate pursuant to regulations prescribed by the 
        Secretary to carry out this section; and
          (C) the supervisor is afforded notice and an 
        opportunity for a hearing before making such repayment.

Sec. 735. Training regarding whistleblower complaints

  (a) Training.--The Secretary, in coordination with the 
Whistleblower Protection Ombudsman designated under section 
3(d)(1)(C) of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. 
App.), shall annually provide to each employee of the 
Department training regarding whistleblower complaints, 
including--
          (1) an explanation of each method established by law 
        in which an employee may file a whistleblower 
        complaint;
          (2) an explanation of prohibited personnel actions 
        described by section 733(c) of this title;
          (3) with respect to supervisors, how to treat 
        whistleblower complaints in accordance with section 732 
        of this title;
          (4) the right of the employee to petition Congress 
        regarding a whistleblower complaint in accordance with 
        section 7211 of title 5;
          (5) an explanation that the employee may not be 
        prosecuted or reprised against for disclosing 
        information to Congress in instances where such 
        disclosure is permitted by law, including under 
        sections 5701, 5705, and 7732 of this title, under 
        section 552a of title 5 (commonly referred to as the 
        Privacy Act), under chapter 93 of title 18, and 
        pursuant to regulations promulgated under section 
        264(c) of the Health Insurance Portability and 
        Accountability Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-191);
          (6) an explanation of the language that is required 
        to be included in all nondisclosure policies, forms, 
        and agreements pursuant to section 115(a)(1) of the 
        Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (5 
        U.S.C. 2302 note); and
          (7) the right of contractors to be protected from 
        reprisal for the disclosure of certain information 
        under section 4705 or 4712 of title 41.
  (b) Certification.--The Secretary shall annually provide 
training on merit system protection in a manner that the 
Special Counsel certifies as being satisfactory.
  (c) Publication.--(1) The Secretary shall publish on the 
Internet website of the Department, and display prominently at 
each facility of the Department, the rights of an employee to 
file a whistleblower complaint, including the information 
described in paragraphs (1) through (7) of subsection (a).
  (2) The Secretary shall publish on the Internet website of 
the Department, the whistleblower complaint form described in 
section 732(g)(2).

Sec. 736. Reports to Congress

  (a) Annual Reports.--The Secretary shall annually submit to 
the Committees on Veterans' Affairs of the House of 
Representatives and the Senate, the Committee on Oversight and 
Government Reform of the House of Representatives, and the 
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the 
Senate a report that includes--
          (1) with respect to whistleblower complaints filed 
        under section 732 during the year covered by the 
        report--
                  (A) the number of such complaints filed;
                  (B) the disposition of such complaints; and
                  (C) the ways in which the Secretary addressed 
                such complaints in which a positive 
                determination was made by a supervisor under 
                subsection (b)(1) of such section;
          (2) the number of whistleblower complaints filed 
        during the year covered by the report that are not 
        included under paragraph (1), including--
                  (A) the method in which such complaints were 
                filed;
                  (B) the disposition of such complaints; and
                  (C) the ways in which the Secretary addressed 
                such complaints; and
          (3) with respect to disclosures made by a contractor 
        under section 4705 or 4712 of title 41--
                  (A) the number of complaints relating to such 
                disclosures that were investigated by the 
                Inspector General of the Department of Veterans 
                Affairs during the year covered by the report;
                  (B) the disposition of such complaints; and
                  (C) the ways in which the Secretary addressed 
                such complaints.
  (b) Notice of Office of Special Counsel Determinations.--Not 
later than 30 days after the date on which the Secretary 
receives from the Special Counsel information relating to a 
whistleblower complaint pursuant to section 1213 of title 5, 
the Secretary shall notify the Committees on Veterans' Affairs 
of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Committee 
on Oversight and Government Reform of the House of 
Representatives, and the Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs of the Senate of such information, 
including the determination made by the Special Counsel.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                              ----------                              


                      TITLE 5, UNITED STATES CODE



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
PART III--EMPLOYEES

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBPART B--EMPLOYMENT AND RETENTION

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 33--EXAMINATION, SELECTION, AND PLACEMENT

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER I--EXAMINATION, CERTIFICATION, AND APPOINTMENT

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 3321. Competitive service; probationary period

  (a) The President may take such action, including the 
issuance of rules, regulations, and directives, as shall 
provide as nearly as conditions of good administration warrant 
for a period of probation--
          (1) before an appointment in the competitive service 
        becomes final; and
          (2) before initial appointment as a supervisor or 
        manager becomes final.
  (b) An individual--
          (1) who has been transferred, assigned, or promoted 
        from a position to a supervisory or managerial 
        position, and
          (2) who does not satisfactorily complete the 
        probationary period under subsection (a)(2) of this 
        section,
shall be returned to a position of no lower grade and pay than 
the position from which the individual was transferred, 
assigned, or promoted. Nothing in this section prohibits an 
agency from taking an action against an individual serving a 
probationary period under subsection (a)(2) of this section for 
cause unrelated to supervisory or managerial performance.
  (c) Subsections (a) and (b) of this section shall not apply 
with respect to appointments in the Senior Executive [Service 
or] Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug 
Enforcement Administration Senior Executive Service, or any 
individual covered by section 717 of title 38 .

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


 SUBCHAPTER VIII--APPOINTMENT, REASSIGNMENT, TRANSFER, AND DEVELOPMENT 
IN THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 3393. Career appointments

  (a) Each agency shall establish a recruitment program, in 
accordance with guidelines which shall be issued by the Office 
of Personnel Management, which provides for recruitment of 
career appointees from--
          (1) all groups of qualified individuals within the 
        civil service; or
          (2) all groups of qualified individuals whether or 
        not within the civil service.
  (b) Each agency shall establish one or more executive 
resources boards, as appropriate, the members of which shall be 
appointed by the head of the agency from among employees of the 
agency or commissioned officers of the uniformed services 
serving on active duty in such agency. The boards shall, in 
accordance with merit staffing requirements established by the 
Office, conduct the merit staffing process for career 
appointees, including--
          (1) reviewing the executive qualifications of each 
        candidate for a position to be filled by a career 
        appointee; and
          (2) making written recommendations to the appropriate 
        appointing authority concerning such candidates.
  (c)(1) The Office shall establish one or more qualifications 
review boards, as appropriate. It is the function of the boards 
to certify the executive qualifications of candidates for 
initial appointment as career appointees in accordance with 
regulations prescribed by the Office. Of the members of each 
board more than one-half shall be appointed from among career 
appointees. Appointments to such boards shall be made on a non-
partisan basis, the sole selection criterion being the 
professional knowledge of public management and knowledge of 
the appropriate occupational fields of the intended appointee.
  (2) The Office shall, in consultation with the various 
qualification review boards, prescribe criteria for 
establishing executive qualifications for appointment of career 
appointees. The criteria shall provide for--
          (A) consideration of demonstrated executive 
        experience;
          (B) consideration of successful participation in a 
        career executive development program which is approved 
        by the Office; and
          (C) sufficient flexibility to allow for the 
        appointment of individuals who have special or unique 
        qualities which indicate a likelihood of executive 
        success and who would not otherwise be eligible for 
        appointment.
  (d) An individual's initial appointment as a career appointee 
shall become final only after the individual has served a 1-
year probationary period as a career appointee. The preceding 
sentence shall not apply to any individual covered by section 
717 of title 38.
  (e) Each career appointee shall meet the executive 
qualifications of the position to which appointed, as 
determined in writing by the appointing authority.
  (f) The title of each career reserved position shall be 
published in the Federal Register.
  (g) A career appointee may not be removed from the Senior 
Executive Service or civil service except in accordance with 
the applicable provisions of sections 1215, 3592, 3595, 7532, 
or 7543 of this title.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBPART C--EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


CHAPTER 43--PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER I--GENERAL PROVISIONS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 4303. Actions based on unacceptable performance

  (a) Subject to the provisions of this section, an agency may 
reduce in grade or remove an employee for unacceptable 
performance.
  (b)(1) An employee whose reduction in grade or removal is 
proposed under this section is entitled to--
          (A) 30 days' advance written notice of the proposed 
        action which identifies--
                  (i) specific instances of unacceptable 
                performance by the employee on which the 
                proposed action is based; and
                  (ii) the critical elements of the employee's 
                position involved in each instance of 
                unacceptable performance;
          (B) be represented by an attorney or other 
        representative;
          (C) a reasonable time to answer orally and in 
        writing; and
          (D) a written decision which--
                  (i) in the case of a reduction in grade or 
                removal under this section, specifies the 
                instances of unacceptable performance by the 
                employee on which the reduction in grade or 
                removal is based, and
                  (ii) unless proposed by the head of the 
                agency, has been concurred in by an employee 
                who is in a higher position than the employee 
                who proposed the action.
  (2) An agency may, under regulations prescribed by the head 
of such agency, extend the notice period under subsection 
(b)(1)(A) of this section for not more than 30 days. An agency 
may extend the notice period for more than 30 days only in 
accordance with regulations issued by the Office of Personnel 
Management.
  (c) The decision to retain, reduce in grade, or remove an 
employee--
          (1) shall be made within 30 days after the date of 
        expiration of the notice period, and
          (2) in the case of a reduction in grade or removal, 
        may be based only on those instances of unacceptable 
        performance by the employee--
                  (A) which occurred during the 1-year period 
                ending on the date of the notice under 
                subsection (b)(1)(A) of this section in 
                connection with the decision; and
                  (B) for which the notice and other 
                requirements of this section are complied with.
  (d) If, because of performance improvement by the employee 
during the notice period, the employee is not reduced in grade 
or removed, and the employee's performance continues to be 
acceptable for 1 year from the date of the advance written 
notice provided under subsection (b)(1)(A) of this section, any 
entry or other notation of the unacceptable performance for 
which the action was proposed under this section shall be 
removed from any agency record relating to the employee.
  (e) Any employee who is--
          (1) a preference eligible;
          (2) in the competitive service; or
          (3) in the excepted service and covered by subchapter 
        II of chapter 75,
and who has been reduced in grade or removed under this section 
is entitled to appeal the action to the Merit Systems 
Protection Board under section 7701.
  (f) This section does not apply to--
          (1) the reduction to the grade previously held of a 
        supervisor or manager who has not completed the 
        probationary period under section 3321(a)(2) of this 
        title,
          (2) the reduction in grade or removal of an employee 
        in the competitive service who is serving a 
        probationary or trial period under an initial 
        appointment or who has not completed 1 year of current 
        continuous employment under other than a temporary 
        appointment limited to 1 year or less, [or]
          (3) the reduction in grade or removal of an employee 
        in the excepted service who has not completed 1 year of 
        current continuous employment in the same or similar 
        positions[.], or
          (4) any removal or demotion under section 715 of 
        title 38.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


SUBCHAPTER II--PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL IN THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 4312. Senior Executive Service performance appraisal systems

  (a) Each agency shall, in accordance with standards 
established by the Office of Personnel Management, develop one 
or more performance appraisal systems designed to--
          (1) permit the accurate evaluation of performance in 
        any position on the basis of criteria which are related 
        to the position and which specify the critical elements 
        of the position;
          (2) provide for systematic appraisals of performance 
        of senior executives;
          (3) encourage excellence in performance by senior 
        executives; and
          (4) provide a basis for making eligibility 
        determinations for retention in the Senior Executive 
        Service and for Senior Executive Service performance 
        awards.
  (b) Each performance appraisal system established by an 
agency under subsection (a) of this section shall provide--
          (1) that, on or before the beginning of each rating 
        period, performance requirements for each senior 
        executive in the agency are established in consultation 
        with the senior executive and communicated to the 
        senior executive;
          (2) that written appraisals of performance are based 
        on the individual and organizational performance 
        requirements established for the rating period 
        involved; [and]
          (3) that each senior executive in the agency is 
        provided a copy of the appraisal and rating under 
        section 4314 of this title and is given an opportunity 
        to respond in writing and have the rating reviewed by 
        an employee, or (with the consent of the senior 
        executive) a commissioned officer in the uniformed 
        services serving on active duty, in a higher level in 
        the agency before the rating becomes final[.]; and
          (4) that, in the case of the Department of Veterans 
        Affairs, the performance appraisal system meets the 
        requirements of section 719 of title 38.
  (c)(1) The Office shall review each agency's performance 
appraisal system under this section, and determine whether the 
agency performance appraisal system meets the requirements of 
this subchapter.
  (2) The Comptroller General shall from time to time review 
performance appraisal systems under this section to determine 
the extent to which any such system meets the requirements 
under this subchapter and shall periodically report its 
findings to the Office and to each House of the Congress.
  (3) If the Office determines that an agency performance 
appraisal system does not meet the requirements under this 
subchapter (including regulations prescribed under section 
4315), the agency shall take such corrective action as may be 
required by the Office.
  (d) A senior executive may not appeal any appraisal and 
rating under any performance appraisal system under this 
section.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

                              ----------                              


        VETERANS ACCESS, CHOICE, AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2014



           *       *       *       *       *       *       *
TITLE VII--OTHER VETERANS MATTERS

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


[SEC. 705. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES PAID TO EMPLOYEES OF 
                    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  [In each of fiscal years 2015 through 2024, the Secretary of 
Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the aggregate amount of 
awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in a fiscal year under 
chapter 45 or 53 of title 5, United States Code, or any other 
awards or bonuses authorized under such title does not exceed 
$360,000,000.]

SEC. 705. LIMITATION ON AWARDS AND BONUSES PAID TO EMPLOYEES OF 
                    DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS.

  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall ensure that the 
aggregate amount of awards and bonuses paid by the Secretary in 
a fiscal year under chapter 45 or 53 of title 5, United States 
Code, or any other awards or bonuses authorized under such 
title or title 38, United States Code, does not exceed the 
following amounts:
          (1) With respect to each of fiscal years 2015 through 
        2018, $300,000,000.
          (2) With respect to each of fiscal years 2019 through 
        2024, $360,000,000.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    We have serious concerns over section 2 of H.R. 1994, as 
amended. We believe that this section, although claiming to 
provide an additional means of adding accountability to the 
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would, in practice, make it 
more difficult to achieve substantive accountability while 
exacerbating the VA's culture of whistleblower retaliation. We 
believe that section 2 lacks the modicum of due process that we 
suspect our courts to require. And we believe that section 2, 
by turning VA employees into at-will employees subject to the 
whims of VA managers and political appointees, would destroy 
the merit-based civil service at the VA.
    There is no question that there is a need for greater 
accountability at the VA. There is no question that employees 
and managers who are not doing their jobs should be removed. 
There is no question that the VA seems to have a difficult time 
following the necessary steps it must take to discipline 
employees under current authorities. However, we should 
question whether destroying the due process rights of VA 
employees out of frustration that the VA is not using the 
authorities it currently possesses is necessary in order to 
achieve accountability. We should also question the belief that 
all of VA's accountability concerns would vanish because under 
the operation of section 2 the Secretary would not have to 
provide any predetermination due process and only nominal post-
determination due process to fire an employee. We would note 
that the authority provided to VA in section 2 is based upon 
section 707 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability 
Act of 2014\1\ and has been used only a handful of times since 
it was enacted last year; those cases are winding through our 
legal system, and there has not been a noticeable improvement 
in accountability at the VA.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\P.L. 113-146, 128 Stat. 1754, 1798-1801.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Based upon the weight of case law, we are concerned that if 
section 2 were to be enacted that a court would determine that 
providing no pre-determination and limited post-determination 
due process does not afford a VA employee with adequate due 
process protections. This has the potential of granting 
employees removed under this authority the ability to return to 
the VA and to their old jobs. Once they return, they will be 
especially difficult to remove. We also believe that if VA were 
to be the only federal agency with at-will employment VA would 
find it ever-more difficult to recruit and retain the qualified 
and effective employees it needs to provide benefits and 
services to our veterans. This could unintentionally add to the 
very problems of accountability that section 2 should 
supposedly remedy: poor performing employees would essentially 
be given life-tenure and VA would have little to offer 
employees who could make a difference for veterans.
    Section 4 of H.R. 1994, as amended, includes whistleblower 
provisions drawn from H.R. 571, as amended, that was ordered 
reported to the full House by the Committee in May, 2015. 
Section 2 includes language that that would shield employees 
who have filed a whistleblower complaint under the process 
outlined in section 4 or with the Office of Special Counsel 
from removal. This could have the unintended consequence of 
encouraging false whistleblower allegations by employees who 
fear removal, even if these employees have nothing substantive 
upon which to blow the whistle. A real consequence of this 
would be to substantially increase the workload of an already 
strained OSC while taking important attention and resources 
away from real whistleblowers.
    The treatment of whistleblowers at the VA is abhorrent. A 
New York Times article from 2014 described a long history of 
retaliation against whistleblowers and a ``culture of silence 
and intimidation within the department[.]\2\ We believe that if 
enacted section 2 would add another tool of intimidation and 
retaliation for the use of bad managers against good employees. 
As the American Federation of Government Employees states:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\Eric Lichtblau, V.A. Punished Critics on Staff, Doctors Assert, 
N.Y. Times, June 15, 2014, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/
16/us/va-punished-critics-on-staff-doctors-
assert.html?hpw&rref;=us&_r=0.

        Under H.R. 1994, every whistleblower, along with every 
        other VA employee, would become at-will employees. 
        Without due process rights, no VA employee who wishes 
        to keep his or her job should ever again become a 
        whistleblower in the workplace or at the Congressional 
        witness table. The only difference between the way the 
        H.R. 1994 treats whistleblowers and other VA employees 
        is that after the Secretary exercises his broad 
        discretion to terminate or demote a whistleblower, the 
        OSC would have to approve the action. This unworkable 
        provision would add a completely new function to the 
        OSC, deluging it with a surge of new cases from VA 
        employees forced to invoke whistleblower status because 
        it will be the only safe harbor from their new at-will 
        employee status.\3\
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    \3\Letter from the American Federation of Government Employees to 
Members of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs in opposition to H.R. 
1994, July 14, 2015.

    We do not believe that section 2 provides the necessary due 
process protections that are consistent with Constitutional 
protections of life, liberty, and property. Section 2 would 
provide only an abbreviated level of post-determination due 
process.\4\ The Supreme Court has stated that ``[t]he right to 
due process is conferred not by legislative grace, but by 
constitutional guarantee. While the legislature may elect not 
to confer a property interest in [public] employment, it may 
not constitutionally authorize the deprivation of such an 
interest, once conferred, without appropriate procedural 
safeguards.'''\5\ It is for this reason that we believe that 
ultimately the modicum of due process afforded by section 2 
will be found to be lacking, and this failure may provide the 
grounds by which courts overturn disciplinary actions taken by 
the VA under color of this authority.
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    \4\As stated previously, section 2 of H.R. 1994, as amended, is 
modeled after section 707 of the Choice Act, supra. It should be noted 
that section 707 also provided no pre-determination due process. The 
five-day pre-determination notice was provided by the VA in an attempt 
to satisfy due process requirements, an action taken by the VA and 
opposed by some of our Majority counterparts.
    \5\Cleveland Bd. of Educ. V. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 541 (1985) 
(quoting Arnett v. Kennedy, 416 U.S. 134, 167 (1974).
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    Section 2 provides us with a classic example of legislative 
language that is almost guaranteed to be used improperly while 
running counter to the stated intentions of its supporters. 
Even if used under the best of intentions and motives it could 
ultimately lead to decisions that would undermine these stated 
intentions. Depriving VA employees of due process rights and 
firing the opening salvo on an attempt to deprive VA employees 
of their employment protections is not the solution to anger 
and dissatisfaction with the VA's culture of silence, 
intimidation, and lack of accountability. There are more 
important issues at stake, including protecting our veterans 
and providing them with the benefits and services their 
sacrifices have earned. Fairness and due process is not 
necessarily efficient, but are effective in preserving 
constitutional protections afforded to our citizens. At-will 
government employment may be a goal of some, but we believe 
that unless we steer a course where only profit is the goal of 
our government then such a step is myopic. We should remember 
that civil service reforms of a century ago were instituted to 
remove the political patronage and nepotism then present 
throughout government, patronage and nepotism that afforded no 
real accountability. Due process and fairness is essential to 
protect the employees that we have asked to assist and help our 
veterans:

        Due process is available for the whistleblower, the 
        employee who belongs to the `wrong' political party, 
        the reservist whose periods of military service are 
        inconvenient to the boss, the scapegoat, and the person 
        who has been misjudged based on faulty information. Due 
        process is a constitutional requirement and a small 
        price to pay to ensure the American people receive a 
        merit-based civil service rather than a corrupt spoils 
        system.\6\
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    \6\From ``What is Due Process in Federal Civil Service 
Employment?'' a Report to the President and Congress of the United 
States by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, May, 2015.

    We believe that VA must use its current authorities to 
effectively provide a level of accountability while ensuring 
that VA employees are provided a level of fairness and due 
process. Our impatience with the VA's actions in this regard 
should not cause us to throw out the concept of a merit-based 
civil service in our attempt to encourage VA to provide the 
level of accountability that we all demand. We supported an 
amendment that was offered during the full Committee markup 
that we believe would have provided a sensible additional tool 
to the Secretary to immediately discipline employees determined 
to be a threat to health and safety while providing what we 
believed to be a sufficient level of post-determination due 
process. This would have provided another accountability tool 
to the department while protecting the health and safety of 
veterans and the rights of VA employees. We are disappointed 
that this amendment was not agreed to.
                                   Corrine Brown,
                                           Ranking Member.
                                   Julia Brownley.
                                   Ann Kuster.
                                   Mark Takano.
                                   Dina Titus.
                                   Tim Walz.

                                  [all]