The familiar pugilists of the long-running bout to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs have squared up again.

The casus belli this time appears to be Rep. Jeff Miller’s, R-Fla., VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, which hit the House floor on Sept. 13.

The bill would give the VA new powers to demote or remove employees who have poor performance or misconduct. The proposal also provides an expedited appeals process and allows the agency to claw back annuities, bonuses and relocation expenses from senior executives who have been convicted of a felony that affected their job performance.

Miller’s measure was carried over as unfinished business on the House floor late on Sept. 13, but has employee unions and associations fired up by its chances of passage.

“If Congress passes this bill, frontline employees who dare to speak up against mismanagement and patient harm will face retaliation, harassment, and the loss of their jobs,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox, in a statement.

“It’s a partisan effort to allow favoritism and cronyism to govern the VA by turning VA employees, and ultimately every federal worker, into an at-will employee who can be fired at any time with little to no recourse.”

In a Sept. 13 column on Inside Sources — co-authored with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — Miller said that without his legislation, the VA’s struggles to discipline bad actors would continue.

“Indeed, nearly every day the VA is engulfed in a new crisis or scandal, yet the department is unable to discipline the employees responsible,” the column said.

“For too long, VA bureaucrats who can’t or won’t do their jobs have used every trick in the book to keep themselves firmly entrenched in the agency’s bureaucracy. [The bill] gets rid of these loopholes, which have been unfairly forcing veterans and the many good VA workers to deal with deadwood employees for years.”

The bill is at the center of an ongoing campaign to reform the VA after a series of scandals that rocked the agency, including lengthy patient wait-times and a litany of discipline cases that played out with dramatic plot twists.

Cox said that AFGE — which counts nearly 100,000 VA employees as members — is supporting the competing Veterans First Act, a Senate bill that was introduced in May but has also faced criticism from both Miller and other employee associations.

The bill is expected to be debated on the House floor again on Sept. 14.