President Trump and VA Secretary David Shulkin have begun dealing with bad conduct at the Veterans Administration (VA) where hundreds of employees have been fired, suspended or demoted since the beginning of this year.
Trump signed the Veterans Affairs reform legislation in June that was meant to protect whistle-blowers while making it easier to fire problematic employees at the department and firings have begun before the law officially takes effect.
Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.
Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.
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— Dr. David J. Shulkin (@SecShulkin) July 7, 2017
Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police and a chief of surgery.
Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.
Scores of veterans have died waiting for care while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses, but fixes have been slow to come by largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees.
On the VA Blog, it stated that the VA has become the first agency to post information on adverse employee actions, requires senior official sign-off on all settlement actions above $5,000.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin announced that the VA is taking a further step on transparency and accountability as a follow-on to the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act signed by the President less than two weeks ago.
Beginning today, the department is making public a list of adverse employee actions taken since January 20. This information is posted at http://www.va.gov/accountability and will be updated weekly.
Secretary Shulkin pointed to the move as another step in long-sought transparency and accountability actions at VA, and noted that the VA is the first federal agency to make such data public. “Under this administration, VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in government. Together with the accountability bill the president signed into law recently, this additional step will continue to shine a light on the actions we’re taking to reform the culture at VA, “said Shulkin.
“Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what we’re doing to hold our employees accountable and make our personnel actions transparent. Posting this information online for all to see, and updating it weekly, will do just that, ”he added.
For privacy reasons, the adverse action list will not include employee names, but will give information on the position, VA region or administration, and type of adverse or disciplinary action that has been taken.
The list includes terminations, demotions and suspensions over 14 days since the new administration came into office on January 20. Additional categories of accountability actions will be included in upcoming releases.
In addition to posting the adverse action information, Secretary Shulkin announced that he is requiring approval by a senior official of any monetary settlement with an employee over the amount of $5,000. Any settlement above this amount will require the personal approval of the under secretary, assistant secretary or equivalent senior-level official within the organization in which the dispute occurs.
“Taxpayers need to know that we will engage in good faith settlement negotiations, where required by third parties, but will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged or when settlement is otherwise in Veterans’ and taxpayers’ best interests, and not as a matter of ordinary business. We’re changing to a culture of accountability at VA, and this is an important step in that direction,” said Shulkin.
The first accountability report can be found here and is listed by region.
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