New VA Accountability Law results in more firings

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New VA Accountability Law results in more firings

An interesting article from the always excellent Leo Shane of Military Times:

Employee firings at the Department of Veterans Affairs jumped in the second half of 2017 after new accountability legislation was signed into law last summer, results that administration officials insist show a renewed commitment to cleaning up the agency.

But critics say more firings don’t mean better results for veterans, and the rising rate of dismissals may not be significantly different than past years for the massive government bureaucracy.

Not unexpected that there would be more firings, that was after all an incidental goal of the law itself.  There is a question about whether it will get to the root of the problem of course.

From February to the end of July — before the new rules were put in place — 566 VA workers were fired (an average of about 94 a month). From August to mid-December, that figure rose to 756, or about 168 a month.

VA officials called that a sign of progress.

The problem though is that the law was specifically meant to address some of the ring leaders, those responsible for the waiting list fiascos and things like that.  And while some of that is happening, it’s also scooping up others lower down.

In 2015, then VA Secretary Bob McDonald said about 1,500 employees were fired from the department, an average of about 125 individuals a month. In fiscal 2013 (which ran from October 2013 to September 2014, including the VA wait time scandal of spring 2014) department records indicated that more than 2,200 employees were fired, an average around 183 a month.

Eight senior VA leaders were dismissed in 2017, four before the new law was put into effect and four after. On the year, 38 physicians were fired, with 23 of those coming after the new law.

Nurses and nursing assistants (226 fired) and housekeeping aides (159 fired) had the top dismissals by position in yearly figures posted just before the Christmas break. Cashour said the smaller number of senior employees hit by the new law is not indicative of problems in its implementation.

“Culture spans the entire organization,” he said. “As with any government agency or business, VA has more rank-and-file workers than senior leaders, and we hold them accountable when warranted, regardless of rank or position.”

The timing of this release is not entire coincidental, and was probably in response to a horrible story about the VA that broke late last month:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has allowed its hospitals across the country to hire health care providers with revoked medical licenses for at least 15 years in violation of federal law, a USA TODAY investigation found…

VA Secretary David Shulkin said in an interview that he has ordered the rewriting of the guidelines and launched a nationwide review to identify and remove any other health care workers with revoked licenses.

“It's very clear to me that our job is to have the best quality doctors that we can provide to take care of veterans, and that’s going to be our policy,” he said.

Shulkin said health care providers with prior sanctions against their medical licenses short of revocation — suspensions or reprimands, for example — also will be reviewed to ensure they are providing quality care to veterans at the VA.

Either way, this new Accountability is at least separating some of the wheat from the chaff, which is what was intended.  It may take some time for the entire system to pick up on it, but there’s some hope at least.  The real stumbling block in the past has been the Merit System Protection Board which has overturned some of the more egregious firings.

A Department of Veterans Affairs employee in Puerto Rico was fired after being arrested for armed robbery, but her union quickly got her reinstated — despite a guilty plea — by pointing out that management’s labor relations negotiator is a registered sex offender, and the hospital’s director was once arrested and found with painkiller drugs…

The union’s position — that another employee committed a crime and got away with it, so this one should, too — has been upheld by the highest civil service rules arbiters, and has created a vicious Catch-22 where the department’s prior indefensible inaction against bad employees has handcuffed it from taking action now against other scofflaws.

The same reasoning was used by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to justify reinstating VA executives Diana Rubens and Kim Graves after they swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars by bullying others out of jobs and then cashing in on relocation bonuses to take the jobs themselves.

“There is a significant problem created by the inconsistent treatment of a comparable employee, and that this makes the penalty unreasonable under the circumstances,” an MSPB judge wrote.

Posted in the burner | 11 comments
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You mean they don't pay them bonuses any more? I was under the impression that if you worked for the VA and you aided in the death of a Veteran in ANY manner you received a bonus at years end!!

I have used the VA for years and can only say thank you. At the VA I have had the care of numerous specialists, doctors, technical staff, and have had multiple surgeries that would have financially broken the bank in the outside world. I have only met two doctors that needed to be gone and they are. As for the working staff, I can simply say a little understanding goes a long way and some of them need to be re-trained in their social skills. That is my only complaint.

The major problem I've observed over many years being a VA patient is what I call "passing the buck syndrome"; notably what happens many times at VA hospitals is that when veterans don't receive adequate care such as timely appointments, proper medications, follow up al, VA personnel often blame the "establishment", blame other clinics, other offices..and expect the veteran to fix the problem themselves.

A good example is me. I've been waiting over a month to be assigned a doctor and a team at a VA hospital I just came to after I moved. For weeks now all I've heard is "Well it's so and so's fault", or "Blame it on so and so.."; on VA employee even encouraged me to notify the Patient Representative's office, which I did over a WEEK ago, and still haven't heard a word from them!

So what's the answer? Drain the damn swamp and start over!

Just my 0.02 cents.

Do to my location I have to travel several miles to the closest VA clinic or hospital. Up until this past year I received my travel pay in about two weeks but now I have been told it takes 2 to 2 1/2 months to process our travel payments. I have kept tract of my appointments plus checked them on my Health Net account and found I haven't been paid for several dating back several months and unable to get an answer from the pay clerk other than it's being processed. Being on SS and limited income I have cancelled being I couldn't afford the gas plus the closest hospital 187 mi one way. For the most part I have received good care at the VA clinic. I have used the Health Net Federal Services and found them to be a disaster as far as setting up appointments and when I have used them and seen a provider the provider refused to do a follow up being they had not been paid.

I fully understand what is being said and the total frustration on the veterans part. The one thing I would suggest each and every person(whether vet or not), if you see this as a problem contact your representatives(House and Senate) and let them know how you feel. They usually won't really address a problem unless they see the concern from there constituents in large numbers. Just because you may not like or agree with them politically, your concern is and the time you spend contacting them is another vote they may get in the next election. You can find the contact info on the website each representative maintains.

The accountability law only references the low man on the totem pole. You wil or can not get clarification on a simpme bill from anyone. The executives have been there too long and the bs being
slewed by the VA is BS.

What is the American Legion doing to assist veterans who were stationed at a superfund sight. No acknowledgment from anyone on the questions or assist with the paperwork re: assumption r/t toxic exposure. Just can't get any headway from anyone.

Print my reply or question. Never the matter. Frustration continues to drive me with the same questions and my membership does not matter

Have you contacted our service officer in your state for any help there might be in filling out such an application?  If you need help, email us at, explain what you want help with and where you live, and I will try to get someone to help you.

I retired from the Air Force, 32+ years ago. I have never used a VA facility. I visited a disabled vet in a VA hospital 20 yrs ago in South Carolina. The room they put him was filthy, blood on the floor, old linen. I brought it to the medical staff's attention, "they were busy". BALONEY! Disgusting, apparently things haven;t changed much over the years. What a shame! On the VA and our government.

I sure hope that one of the people fired was from Sepulveda VA. There was a female PATIENT ADVOCATE that we tried and tried to contact without success. We found out that she moved offices, but never changed her phone number. That contact was to help our Vet Rep and us obtain further benefits.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.