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Give VA Secretary Authority To Hold Employees Accountable And Fire Poor Performers
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.
CAMP PENDLETON — The military prosecution of a Coast Guardsman accused of murder began Wednesday with a preliminary hearing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Seaman Ethan W. Tucker, 21, was arrested August 28 after a seven-month Coast Guard investigation into the January death of Seaman Ethan Kelch, 19, who served on the same ship as Tucker— the Kodiak, Alaska-based high endurance cutter Douglas Munro.
ANKARA (Reuters) - President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and "crush the heads of terrorists" if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented.
Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.
President Trump stoked confusion Friday by declaring the U.S. has "secured the Oil" in the Middle East amid continued fallout from the Turkish invasion of northern Syria that he enabled by pulling American troops out of the region.
It wasn't immediately clear what the president was talking about, as there were no publicly known developments in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East relating to oil. White House aides did not return requests for comment.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. State Department investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state has found no evidence of deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees.
The investigation, the results of which were released on Friday by Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley's office, centered on whether Clinton, who served as the top U.S. diplomat from 2009 to 2013, jeopardized classified information by using a private email server rather than a government one.
BYESVILLE — A Meadowbrook High School student removed from class last Friday for being intoxicated is now facing a felony charge after allegedly threatening to shoot people if the previous incident harmed his chances to join a branch of the United States military.
Gabriel D. Blackledge, 18, of Cambridge, is facing one count of making terrorist threats, a third-degree felony, filed by the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office on Thursday. Blackledge remained incarcerated in the county jail on a $250,000 bond with no 10 percent allowed, according to the sheriff's office's website.