VA Secretary Attempts Unlawful Rollback of Ethics Law that Protects Veterans
CLC submits comments in opposition to regulatory rollback of conflict of interest law, challenges Secretary’s authority to issue ‘de facto’ repeal
WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in opposition to its plans to weaken a conflict of interest law that guards against abuses caused by entanglements between VA employees and for-profit education institutions. The VA is proposing to subvert the statute enacted by Congress, which prevented its employees from having financial connections to for-profit education companies. With the proposed waiver, all VA employees would be exempt from the statutory ban – and could receive small gifts from for-profit education companies, and can accept awards and gifts of travel to award ceremonies.
“The VA is wrong to propose scrapping an ethics law that protects veterans,” said Walter Shaub, Senior Director, Ethics, at CLC. “Congress determined this law was necessary in light of a documented history of abuses, and the VA has no authority to issue a blanket waiver eviscerating that law simply because it disagrees with Congress.”
In its comments, CLC contends that the Secretary does not have authority to issue a ‘de facto’ repeal of an Act of Congress. The law was enacted in 1966 by Congress, in the wake of scandals involving for-profit schools giving donations to state officials’ coffers, liquor, money, and other gifts. At the time, Congress deemed it necessary to protect against conflicts of interest posed by employees of the VA – who were targets of abuse from schools that had the ability to gain profits from veteran attendance at their institutions through GI funds.