VA fires more than 500 feds under Trump even before new accountability law
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The Department of Veterans Affairs has fired more than 500 employees since Jan. 20, when President Trump took office, according to a list of job categories of employees recently disciplined or fired.
The list, released by the VA July 3 and updated weekly, has been a way for the embattled agency to be more accountable and transparent about its employee disciplinary process, said U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin. The VA is the first federal agency to make this data on employee status public.
"Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what we’re doing to hold our employees accountable and make our personnel actions transparent,” said Shulkin.
The VA has been under fire for shuffling controversial and problematic employees and managers instead of firing them, even after the widely publicized VA “wait list” scandal that rocked the agency.
The VA has been under fire for shuffling controversial and problematic employees and managers instead of firing them, even after the widely publicized VA “wait list” scandal that rocked the agency. (AP)
So the number of recent firings is surprising to many VA reform advocates.
“In the past, the VA was not straightforward on who they were disciplining and who they let retire,” said Dan Caldwell, director of policy for the Concerned Veterans for America, a grassroots veterans’ advocacy organization. “Often the VA would say someone was fired, and we’d find out later that employee was not fired, they were actually just suspended, demoted or had been allowed to retire before they could be fired.”
“Very few employees were terminated for the ‘wait list’ scandal – less than a dozen that we know of – even though hundreds or even thousands of people were involved,” Caldwell said.
Even though the firings have been happening since Trump took office, not all credit or blame should go to the president, said Natalie Khawam of the Whistleblower Law Firm in Tampa, Fla.
“Claims that all these terminations at the VA occurred because of the new accountability program or under the new [VA] secretary's watch is misleading,” said Khawam who represents a number of VA employee whistleblowers. “Any terminations prior to just a couple months ago were initiated under the Obama administration, and any other termination actions that are still being processed may have rolled over from the past administration, too.”
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin said under Trump, VA employees are being held more accountable for their actions. (AP)
The VA acknowledged some of these actions taken against employees did start under the Obama administration because it typically takes six months to one year to terminate VA employees.