A picture of Representative Steny H. Hoyer
Steny H.
Democrat MD 5

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  • Conference Report on H.R. 3230, Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act

    by Representative Steny H. Hoyer

    Posted on 2014-07-30

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    Read More about Conference Report on H.R. 3230, Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act

    HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I congratulate Mr. Miller, the chairman of the committee, and Mr. Michaud, the ranking member, for working together to get this done.

    Mr. Speaker, this bill is the result of a bipartisan agreement. And while I have some serious concerns about a number of provisions of which I will speak, I am supporting it because it assigns resources to help cut down the waiting times for veterans to get the care they need and that we owe them. That must be our number one goal.

    I remain deeply outraged, as so many of us are, by what transpired in Phoenix and at other VA facilities, where our wounded warriors were made to wait weeks, months to get an appointment and receive treatment, including for serious postdeployment mental health issues. That is not acceptable. This is more than unacceptable, however. It is unconscionable.

    I think there is wide agreement on both sides of the aisle that any VA personnel who facilitated this wrongdoing or undermined veterans' health care must be held accountable.

    However, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned with provisions in this bill regarding the removal of senior executive personnel. While this bill does improve on the House version by adding a 21-day period for appeals, it still undermines civil service protections that had been in place for decades to ensure a merit service, not a politicized, patronage service.

    There are already strict rules in place that facilitate the swift removal of SES officials who do not perform their jobs responsibly, as there should be.

    Those protections strike the right balance between giving agencies the authority to remove personnel without trampling on the due process rights of SES employees, who need to do their job without fear of political reprisal or arbitrary removal.

    Having said that, Mr. Speaker, this bill addresses major challenges at the VA. It provides resources to ensure that our veterans can access health care at private facilities if they face a very long wait or live in rural areas far from VA doctors.

    The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

    Mr. MICHAUD. I yield the gentleman an additional 30 seconds.

    Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

    And it makes health care services more available and accessible to veterans through additional resources for medical and other VA personnel.

    This, of course, is not a perfect bill. But then again, I don't think I have ever voted for a perfect bill. But this is a good bill that moves in the right direction.

    [[Page H7082]] Again, I congratulate Mr. Miller and Mr. Michaud on their work on this very important piece of legislation.

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