Topics: Veterans Affairs

Why fixing Veterans Affairs could make all of Washington work better

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Barack Obama,Veterans Affairs,Bill Clinton,Jimmy Carter,Veterans

An overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to make it easier to fire incompetent federal bureaucrats at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The 390-33 vote in the Republican-led House sent the measure to the Senate's Democratic majority where it faces an uncertain future.

As for President Obama's position on the issue, The Hill this morning quotes an unnamed White House aide sounding positive but warning that:

"We do have some concerns that some provisions could result in significant litigation, which would divert valuable time and resources from VA's accountability efforts and its core mission of delivering quality services to our veterans."

If it works at VA

The significance of the House vote goes far beyond the VA. The VA's 313,000+ employees are governed by the same civil service regulations as the rest of the federal bureaucracy.

That means a management reform that applies to VA could just as easily be extended to every other federal department and independent agency.

In other words, the VA scandal is an opportunity for Congress to create a template for reforming the entire federal bureaucracy.

Carter's forgotten win

Here's why: President Carter's biggest domestic policy achievement was winning passage of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 that included several desperately needed changes in the federal bureaucracy.

The most important of those changes was creation of the Senior Executive Service, the highest level of career managers, and the Merit Pay program for federal middle managers.

Both the SES and Merit Pay managers were put under a Pay-for-Performance system and could be more easily disciplined, transferred or removed entirely from the civil service than before.

Refresh the reforms

In the years since, however, the Carter reforms were steadily undermined as the Clinton administration gave the employee unions significantly more power, the Bush administration ignored civil service issues and the Obama administration consolidated union power and privileges in the federal workplace.

Thus, it's no coincidence that, as the Washington Examiner's Mark Flatten documented earlier this year, thousands of federal employees do nothing but union work while drawing full salary and benefits on what is called "Official Time."

And it is anything but coincidental that the federal department with the most employees on Official Time is VA.

The question then is whether Congress and the president recognize that in fixing VA they can fix the rest of the federal bureaucracy as well.

On today's

Editorial: Tea Party brings GOP back to its Main Street roots.

Columnist/Timothy P. Carney: GOP committee chairman declares war on crony capitalism.

Columnist/David Freddoso: GOP can win by learning detente.

Columnist/Michael Barone: End crony capitalism, sell federal lands, limit tax breaks for the rich.

Columnist/Cal Thomas: Veterans Affairs scandal shows failure of government-run health care.

Beltway Confidential/Ashe Schow: Teacher survey shows growing concerns about Common Core.

PennAve/Brian Hughes: Why Obama's Veterans Affairs problems just got worse.

Legal Newsline/Heather Gvillo: Pennsylvania appellate judge rules exposure theories insufficient in asbestos case.

In other news

The Los Angeles Times: Boston bombers may have had help in building bombs.

CNN: Car bombs rip market in China, at least 31 dead.

Time Magazine: New Census Bureau data shows cities' growth slowing, suburbs growing.

Righty Playbook

The American Spectator: Why the VA scandal is good for the Left.

The Daily Caller: Rockefeller accuses Obamacare critics of racism.

Washington Free Beacon: Israeli Arab Christians joining Israel Defense Forces.

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: Millennials are right to be averse to the stock market.

Lefty Playbook

The Nation: How to reclaim democracy from the corporations.

New Republic: Veterans Affairs scandal was decades in the making.

Washington Monthly: Meeting expectations.

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: Is the world's most powerful military defenseless against Big Tobacco?

Blog Right

Hit & Run: FBI director scolded for making light of marijuana use.

The Gateway Pundit: Radical group behind "Pitfalls of working with white people" got $250K from Justice Department.

Hot Air: Romney Republicanism is alive and well.

Blog Left

Talking Points Memo: Arkansas voters complain about quizzing by poll workers.

Talk Left: Government releases Tsarnaev's scrawled boat note.

The Raw Story: Republicans move to slash summer food aid to city kids but can't explain why.

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