Since President Donald J. Trump signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, more than 500 employees have been fired. The department is now required to release a monthly report detailing whatever disciplinary actions have been taken during that month each month since the bill was signed.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act is the most significant reform bill or action in the history of the department. The legislation fulfills a major promise made by President Trump on the campaign trail, frequently vowing to fire VA workers “who let our veterans down.”
The Adverse Actions Report also shows more than 180 have been put on suspension for a period greater than 14 days. For privacy reasons, the report doesn’t include names, but does have information on the position, the region or administration and type of adverse or disciplinary action taken.
“Under this administration, VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in government,” Secretary David Shulkin said. “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.”
The Trump Administration has taken veterans’ issues head on since January 21, creating the VA accountability office, launching a website that posts wait-times at hospitals and a same-day mental health care initiative at each and every VA facility nationwide.
“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.”
The President also signed the Veterans Choice Act, which begins permitting qualified veterans to get the care of their choice.
Secretary Shulkin took swift action to address whistleblower concerns at the Manchester, New Hampshire, VA Medical Center. He sent the VA Office of the Medical Inspector and the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection to conduct a top-down review of the facility after the Boston Globe reported thousands of patients, including some with life-threatening conditions, were struggling to get any care at the facility.
The conditions were also horrendous.
“These are serious allegations, and we want our Veterans and our staff to have confidence in the care we’re providing,” the secretary said after reports. “I have been clear about the importance of transparency, accountability and rapidly fixing any and all problems brought to our attention, and we will do so immediately with these allegations.”
The secretary removed the director and chief of staff at the facility, pending the outcome of the review. In the meantime, Alfred Montoya, the director of the VAMC in White River Junction, Vermont, is serving as the new director of the Manchester VAMC. The new chief of staff will be announced shortly.
While it passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate by voice vote, the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act didn’t enjoy broad bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives. Even though 368 representatives supported the bill, a significant number of members (55) did not, 54 of them being Democrats.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, was the only Republican to vote “Nay” on the bill (see votes here).[brid video=”148003″ player=”2077″ title=”Trump Signs VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act”]
Brief Recent History of VA Scandals
The signing of the bill by President Trump followed several scandals during the Obama Administration that included veterans dying while waiting to get appointments at VA hospitals, most notably in Phoenix, Arizona.
At a facility in Tomah, Wisconsin, patients called the chief of staff the “Candy Man” because he widely distributed narcotics for a $4,000 bonus, even after a patient named Jason Simcakoski died of an overdose. Incredibly, this was after an investigation uncovered that he was overprescribing.
The previous administration repeatedly claimed to have learned of the conditions at these VA facilities only after news reports exposed them, including allegations from a doctor at the Huntington VA Medical Center in Charleston, West Virginia.
Dr. Margaret Moxness, a psychiatrist, said in 2014 she was ordered to delay the treatment of veterans for months and that at least two of them had committed suicide.