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About Those VA Firings…

VA-Logo-Rust---ROHRemember about a year ago when the Veteran’s Administration was fudging numbers on waiting times for vets needing heath care?

Remember when Obama administration said they would get to the bottom of the problem, fix the problems and hold accountable anyone who had lied or ”
cooked the books?”

(And to be fair, the problem with the VA has been going on long before President Obama was elected.)

Remember when the head of the VA stood up in front of Congress and swore things would get better? It sticks in our mind because it was one of the very few times when Republicans and Democrats agreed that drastic measures needed to be taken.

How did all that turn out?

We’ll let the New York Times tell you the disgusting results:

The nationwide scandal last spring over manipulated wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals led to the ouster of the secretary of veterans affairs and vows from the new leadership that people would be held accountable.

Then in February, the new secretary, Robert A. McDonald, asserted in a nationally televised interview that the department had fired 60 people involved in manipulating wait times to make it appear that veterans were receiving care faster than they were. In fact, the department quickly clarified after that interview, only 14 people had been removed from their jobs, while about 60 others had received lesser punishments.

Now, new internal documents show that the real number of people removed from their jobs is much smaller still: at most, three.

The documents given this month to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which provided them to The New York Times, show that the department punished a total of eight of its 280,000 employees for involvement in the scandal. One was fired, one retired in lieu of termination, one’s termination is pending, and five were reprimanded or suspended for up to two months.

The only person fired was the director of the Phoenix hospital, Sharon Helman, who technically was removed not for her role in the manipulation of waiting lists but for receiving “inappropriate gifts,” according to the department.

In a statement released Wednesday night, the department did not dispute the numbers released by the committee, but said that more than 100 other employees were facing disciplinary action.

“V.A. is committed to holding employees accountable for misconduct,” the statement said.

Veterans who trusted the government’s promise on health care were pushed aside like used toilet paper all to make hospitals and regions look good on paper. For that abuse – for the abuse where it is very arguable that men and women died from the actions of the employees at the VA – one person resigned and one was “fired” for something other than her role in making sure vets were wrongly treated.

(Apparently it is acceptable to lie and have vets die on your watch, but if you improperly take a gift, well, your butt is out the door.)

This is the type of thing that drives us crazy. Not only were the people not fired, they got bonuses for their lying and ineptitude.

More than $380,000 in bonuses were awarded last year to directors and top executives at 38 VA hospitals where investigators are looking into claims of falsified appointment records or where there have been excessive delays in patient care, according to agency documents provided by an investigating House committee.

The bonuses were part of $2.7 million in extra pay given in 2013 to top ranking officials inside the troubled agency, a practice the Department of Veterans Affairs suspended earlier this year amid concerns that the money might have “incentivized inappropriate actions.”

Specifically, the bonuses might have led VA workers to alter wait-time records to make it appear veterans were being seen by doctors sooner than they actually were, according to the June 27 findings presented to President Obama by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Ron Nabors. Wait-time data for years have been a part of performance reviews on which bonuses are based.

Not only that, but….

As pressure from veterans has mounted to hold employees accountable for hiding long wait times, the V.A. has struggled to build cases against those implicated in the scandal. More than a year after being put on leave, two top officials at the Phoenix hospital are still drawing a salary while investigations continue.

Good grief.

“The government firing system is so cumbersome bad employees can continue to be paid for years,” said Raymond Kelley, legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars. “We need to show them you can no longer hide just because you have a government job, unclog the middle management that appears to be part of the problem and get the right people in those positions.”

Gee, YA THINK!?!?!



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