July 10, 2017

Good News For Veterans: Trump Tells Hundreds Of VA Workers ‘You’re Fired!’

Accountability: For decades, political leaders have lamented the scandal-plagued Veterans Health Administration, and did little more than throw more money at the problem. The Trump administration is firing workers who aren't doing their jobs.

According the Department of Veterans Affairs, 526 have been fired for misconduct since President Trump took office. Another 200 have been suspended and 33 demoted.

Most of them worked at the VHA and included physicians, nurses, pharmacy technicians, food service workers, medical technicians, office workers, even some police officers.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said this was part of a broader effort to reform the culture at the VA.

"Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what we're doing to hold our employees accountable and make our personnel actions transparent," he continued. "Posting this information online for all to see, and updating it weekly, will do just that."

Expect more terminations now that Trump has signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which strengthens Shulkin's ability to get rid of bad employees, including senior executives.

Contrast this with the Obama administration, which ceaselessly talked about accountability while providing little of it.

In the wake of the 2014 widespread scandal at the VHA, where veterans died during endless waits for treatment and officials tried to cover it up, only nine employees (out of 57 targeted for disciplinary actions) were let go, three of whom were senior officials.

And then, in June 2016, the Obama administration announced that it was abandoning the 2014 law's streamlined firing process altogether after deciding it was unconstitutional.

Shulkin is also imposing a requirement that any monetary settlement with an employee over $5,000 has to be approved by a senior official.

As the Daily Caller reports, in the past the VA "repeatedly made five- and six-figure payments to bad employees to get them to quit" rather than deal with a lengthy appeals process.

In the two and half years that Bob McDonald was running the VA under Obama, the agency paid out more than $5 million in such payments. The message to VA employees was clear: If you're threatened with being fired, hold out for a settlement.

Every government agency has the same problem as the VA — it's difficult to impossible to fire workers for misconduct, thanks to the heavy union presence and the Merit Systems Protection Board.

The result is that managers not only avoid firing workers, they won't even give employees bad reviews out of fear of triggering lengthy and costly appeals. As a result, 99.5% of federal workers get a "fully successful" rating or above, according to an audit by the Government Accountability Office. More than a third got an "outstanding" rating.

Government workers already make more money and get far more generous benefits than those in the private sector who pay their salaries. The fact that so many federal workers get what amounts to a guaranteed job for life is adding insult to injury.

What's needed is a wholesale revamp of the rules and regulations covering government employees so that agency heads can actually create cultures of accountability, instead of just talking about it.

But the need is more urgent at the VHA, where the failure of government employees can cost lives. Shulkin, to his credit, has taken the first step to remedying that.

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