Kiggans Introduces Legislation to Support Law Enforcement, Improve VA Safety

May 19, 2023
Press
Veterans


WASHINGTON, DC
: Today, Congresswoman Jen Kiggans (VA-02) announced that she has introduced the VA Medical Security Report Act of 2023. This bipartisan legislation helps ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) police force and its officers have the resources they need to ensure all VA medical centers are safe and secure for veterans. Joining Congresswoman Kiggans in this important effort is Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01).

“The thought of veterans fearing for their safety when they see a healthcare provider – after they put their lives on the line in service to our country – is deeply disturbing,” said Congresswoman Kiggans. “That’s why I introduced the VA Medical Security Report Act. I’m confident this bipartisan bill will equip us with the information we need to address the increase in crime at VA medical centers, support our law enforcement officers, and provide veterans with a safe environment to receive the quality healthcare they have earned and deserve.”

“Veterans risked their lives to serve our country and we must ensure that VA medical centers are a safe environment for them after their service is over,” said Congressman Pappas. “This bipartisan legislation will improve our understanding of how to improve the security and safety of VA medical centers and ensure law enforcement has the resources they need to prevent crime. I’m pleased to work with Congresswoman Kiggans to this end, and I will continue to support law enforcement in their efforts to keep veterans safe when utilizing the health care they’ve earned.” 

“The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and its National Veterans Affairs Council (NVAC) are proud to endorse the ‘VA Medical Center Security Reporting Act,’ introduced by Rep. Jen Kiggans and Rep. Chris Pappas.  This bi-partisan legislation, appropriately introduced during police week, will better enable congress to perform oversight over the VA Police force, and help ensure that VA police departments are fully staffed, and officers are fully trained to protect veterans and the VA employees who serve them.  AFGE and the NVAC are proud to represent thousands of VA Police Officers in facilities across the country, 90 percent of whom are veterans themselves, and will continue to advocate for legislation to help recruit, retain, and train this critical group of dedicated VA employees,” said M.J. Burke, First Executive Vice President of AFGE’s NVAC.

“The National Federation of Federal Employees thanks Representatives Kiggans (R-VA) and Pappas (D-NH) for introducing the VA Medical Security Report Act of 2023 to call attention to a growing safety and security crisis within the VA.  For too long, our VA police officers are treated like second-class law enforcement officers, constantly asked to do more with less while continually losing talent to area police departments who leave for better opportunities.  More can be done to help our VA police officers identify and manage the unique challenges of providing a safe and secure environment in which to care for our veterans.  This legislation will provide a foundation for that to happen,” said Randy Erwin, National President of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE).

Specifically, the VA Medical Security Report Act of 2023 aims to increase safety and security at VA Medical facilities by requiring VA leadership to provide reports that accurately detail the health of VA police forces and security at VA Medical Centers. These reports – which will be shared with Congress over the next five years – will detail staffing vacancies, security weakness, and data on criminal activities, training, vacancies, and security weaknesses. Additionally, the bill requires that these reports include input from police leaders on the ground.

BACKGROUND

The number of violent crimes committed at VA medical facilities increased from 3,141 in FY 2018 to 6,505 in FY 2021, despite the number of people at these facilities decreasing by 25-50% between FY 2020 and FY 2021. 

The VA currently operates 144 police units at VA medical centers, consisting of approximately 3,700 officers and 430 chiefs of police, deputy chiefs of police, and physical security specialists, making it one of the top ten largest federal law enforcement organizations. In a preliminary staffing model given to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee during the 117th Congress, the VA proposed increasing their security force to as many as 5,640 officers and 524 chiefs of police, deputy chiefs of police, and physical security specialists.

The full text of the VA Medical Security Report Act of 2023 is available here.

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