SEA Opposes Senate Action, Urges Conference Committee to Address Problems at VA Instead of Scapegoating Career Senior Executives

The Senior Executives Association (SEA) expressed its strong opposition to action taken in the Senate to pass legislation dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

In a rush to pass “emergency” legislation for an issue that Congress and VA have known about for over 15 years, the Senate today voted to advance legislation, with no debate, amendments or committee hearings, that drastically alters civil service laws and threatens to politicize the career Senior Executive Service (SES) at the department.  The provisions affecting the Senior Executive Service address neither real accountability for individual actions nor the root causes of access to patient care for veterans.

Since 1999 multiple GAO and IG reports have raised issues of scheduling and patient access as critical areas in need of attention. The VA has worked to address many of the issues – including changing scheduling procedures and attempting to train schedulers on various procedures. However, there has not been sustained focus on this issue by political leaders and, clearly, many problems remain. Patient access and scheduling have been compounded by a lack of provider slots and clerical staff at the VA and an influx of veterans seeking services. In fact, many of the issues facing the VA are shared by our general medical and health care system nationwide.

SEA commends the Senate and House for coming together to offer bipartisan legislation to address the serious issues of access to care, numbers of healthcare providers at the VA, and unrealistic and unattainable agency goals on wait times. Furthermore, the Association applauds the provisions to ensure the VA is carrying out workforce training, development, and succession planning provisions to ensure that VA employees and the agency are prepared to best serve our Nation’s veterans.

“These critical VA issues should never have been lumped together with sweeping changes to the civil service without careful debate and consideration,” stated SEA President Carol Bonosaro.

“The unfortunate reality is that the rhetoric surrounding Senior Executives at the VA is largely driven by optics rather than the policy needs of the VA and the veterans it serves. This legislation removes due process and is likely unconstitutional. Making a few heads roll is not going to solve the problems at the VA and the firing provision in the bill begs the question of why any experienced, accomplished executive would want to continue to serve in the SES at the VA, much less why any well-qualified candidate would apply for a position there . Veterans deserve a world-class health system. Politicizing the SES is not the way to get there,” continued Bonosaro.

The Senior Executives Association (SEA) is a professional association representing Senior Executive Service members and other career federal executives. Founded in 1980, SEA's goals are: to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and productivity of the federal government; to advance the professionalism and advocate the interests of career federal executives; and to enhance public recognition of their contributions. The SEA Professional Development League (PDL) is a nonprofit educational organization committed to advancing the professionalism of career federal executives through the sponsorship of training, recognition, and research activities.