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Arizona congresswoman praises bill that will bring changes to VA

(AP and Facebook photos)

PHOENIX — U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) praised a bill designed to bring about changes at the VA, including protecting whistleblowers, that was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday.

“I’m very happy,” she said. “I’ve been an original cosponsor of this legislation for three years in a row. We passed this bill in the House three times before the Senate joined us to get this bill passed and to the president.”

Among several other provisions, the bill — prompted by a 2014 wait-list scandal at the Phoenix VA — instantly granted protections for whistleblowers who pointed out problems within the agency.

“In places like Phoenix, Arizona, whistleblowers like Brandon Coleman were disciplined after raising the flag about inappropriate practices,” Sinema said. “His case was later resolved thanks to a director who came in and solved the problem, but other whistleblowers shouldn’t be afraid of getting the same kind of retribution that Brandon and others faced.”

The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.

“These are the folks who are taking money for bonuses, meanwhile lying on forms and veterans were dying while waiting on these waiting lists,” Sinema said, adding that the former system harmed both taxpayers and veterans.

“As you know, a couple of guys at the Phoenix VA were on administrative leave for over two years getting full pay before they were fired. That’s just outrageous.”

A third part of the new law created a better system to promote people who are doing a good job in the VA.

“Most of the folks that work at the VA are wonderful, good-hearted people with great skills and talents who want to serve veterans,” Sinema said.

The congresswoman said the bipartisan effort behind the bill is something she hopes to see more of in Washington, D.C.

“This is something all of us – Republicans, Democrats and independents – can be proud of,” she said.

KTAR’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.

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