A new bill is heading to the House for final approval that would further Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Bob McDonald's ability to recoup relocation expenses from employees.
This bill is a response to Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves, two VA employees who controversially racked up thousands of dollars in moving expenses. The new regulation could prevent incidents such as this from happening in the future.
According to Government Executive, the proposed bill, H.R. 4138, would give McDonald more power but also ensure a level of transparency during the recoup process. The VA would have to notify employees prior to issuing what is, by all accounts, a refund. Those employees would then have a chance to appeal to a different department or agency.
Although the bill was approved 18-4 by a House committee, some were not pleased, saying it awards McDonald too much power.
"I am surprised that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would give the VA such a broad and poorly defined power," Rice said.
Rice had previously proposed an amendment to the bill to better flesh out points that she said are "entirely too vague." This clarification would ensure McDonald only recoups payments from employees who committed transgressions. She also wanted to give employees the right to also appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board. McDonald accepted the first proposal but not the second, saying, "We need to streamline these processes, and not complicate and lengthen them."
Like Rice, the VA also opposes the bill. However, the department's objection is more surprising considering the regulation should help it. Proponents of this legislation are confused as to why the VA would reject a rule that could help change an organization's culture that desperately needs a makeover.