This month marks the third anniversary of a nationwide crisis in access to care that branded the Department of Veterans Affairs as an inept and corrupt government bureaucracy that was failing in its primary mission to care for those who had borne the battle.
In the aftermath, Congress quickly crafted a new law to improve the secretary of veterans affairs’ authority to remove senior VA executives for performance or misconduct. The new authority did not last long.
Soon after enactment, then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald demoted and fired several senior executives for failing to properly disclose and address egregious wait times, and for manipulating the agency’s hiring process to secure large bonuses. The law was later deemed unconstitutional — over alleged due process rights violations — and the disciplinary actions against the VA executives were reversed.
So the question today is whether the VA Accountability First Act is the right vehicle to finally enable VA leadership to fire inept, irresponsible and crime-committing employees? The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States hopes it is. We are very cognizant of the points made by the opposition, because any new personnel regulation intended to apply only to VA employees will impact all federal civilians in every government agency. This explains the pushback from unions and perhaps the hesitance by some in Congress to support the reform legislation, despite their many promises to fix the VA.
According to the bill’s sponsors, House VA Committee Chairman Dr. Phil Roe and Sen. Marco Rubio, the VA Accountability First Act would enact improved protections for whistleblowers; empower the VA secretary to reduce an employee’s federal pension if they are convicted of a felony that influenced their job at VA; allow the VA secretary to recoup bonuses provided to employees who engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to receiving the bonus; and recoup relocation expenses authorized for an employee only through the employee’s “ill-gotten means, such as fraud, waste or malfeasance.”
As the nation's oldest and largest major war veterans organization, the VFW supports this legislation. We want VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin to have the authority to manage his people in a manner expected of all senior executives, public or private. We want the secretary to weed out the non-performers and especially the criminals, regardless of whether the crime was committed on or off-duty.
It is important to note that employee accountability is only part of the solution. As former VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson so eloquently expressed during congressional testimony, “You can’t fire your way to excellence.” The VFW believes improved accountability will have a direct and positive effect on the VA’s ability to hire and retain high quality health care professionals.
Working for the government needs to return to being an honor to serve the public, not a right to serve oneself. Proper leadership, management, and accountability are only watchwords without the authority to enact change. Let’s get the VA Accountability First Act passed, because maintaining the status quo doesn’t work for those who have borne the battle.
Brian Duffy is the national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliary.
Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker, a 3rd Infantry Division Soldier who was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment and killed in action in Iraq in 2003, is depicted in a photo illustration alongside the Distinguished Service Cross medal, which he is slated to posthumously receive for his heroic actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, April 5, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pa. (U.S. Army)
The U.S. Army has announced it will upgrade a former 3rd Infantry Division soldier's Silver Star to a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery during the unit's "Thunder Run" attack on Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003.
HANOI (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the U.S. secretary of state he did not want his children to live with the burden of nuclear weapons, a former CIA officer involved in high-level diplomacy over the North's weapons was quoted as saying on Saturday.
An Oregon Air National Guard F-15C Eagle that made an emergency landing on Wednesday ditched its entire arsenal of live air-to-air missiles before touching down at Portland International Airport, The War Zone reports.
President Donald Trump announced in December that he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, but Sen. Lindsey Graham has since made a strong push to keep a small residual force along the Turkish border along with troops from European allies.
The former Navy SEAL among a group of eight men arrested earlier this week in Port-au-Prince on weapons charges says he was providing security work "for people who are directly connected to the current President" of Haiti.
"We were being used as pawns in a public fight between him and the current Prime Minister of Haiti," said Chris Osman, 44, in a post on Instagram Friday. "We were not released we were in fact rescued."