A freshman Texas U.S. Representative took a vote this week to protect veterans and hold VA employees accountable. The move comes in the wake of VA scandals where veterans have received long delays in treatments or no treatment at all for their service related disabilities and injuries. Hospital records have also been altered to cover up inefficiencies and improve bonuses.
Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) voted to pass the VA Accountability Act of 2015 on Wednesday. The bill, should it become law, gives the Secretary of Veteran Affairs more authority and flexibility in regards to firing VA employees who are not doing their jobs. Only three VA employees have been fired in connection with last year’s VA scandal.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it should reach his desk. The Washington Free Beacon reported President Obama called the bill “counterproductive.” He claimed the bill would create “a disparity in the treatment of one group of civil servants.”
The bill is designed to expand the VA’s ability to fire incompetent or corrupt employees. It applies, not only to executive level employees, but to lower level employees as well.
“This is the biggest difference between government and the private sector,” said Rep. Hurd, in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “In the real world, if a person fails to do their job, they are fired. In government, even if an employee is penalized, it may take months or years before real action is taken.”
“This is especially egregious in this situation since some of our nation’s heroes suffered due to negligence and malfeasance,” Hurd explained.
In May, 2014, Breitbart Texas reported that a VA whistleblower in Texas called the hospital system for veterans in Texas an “organized crime syndicate.” The whistleblower revealed a situation where VA managers would adjust the books to make their records look better and tweak their bonuses.
“This is awful,” Congressman Ted Poe exclaimed last summer. “The more we learn, the worse it gets, and now it spreads to twenty-seven different facilities in the United States. The whistleblower in one of the facilities calls this a ‘criminal syndicate,’ and I think he lays out the argument pretty well.”
“It comes across as a criminal syndicate because you have the higher-ups,” Poe continued, “juggling the books and allegedly forcing people below them to juggle the books for the wait times. In the Veterans Administration, apparently, if the wait times for veterans to see a doctor is low, bureaucrats get bonuses. The shorter the wait time, the higher the bonus.”
In early June, 2014, then VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned from office amid the brewing scandal. Despite that brief display of accountability, the VA only took action against three employees in connection with the scandal.
On June 25, 2014, Breitbart Texas reported that forty-four members of the Texas House and Senate joined together in sending a letter to the then acting VA Secretary, Sloan Gibson. The letter called for more timely treatment of Texas veterans. The state legislators asked Gibson:
- What steps are you taking to ascertain the full extent of the crisis at your agency?
- What actions, policy changes, terminations, or other steps will you take to immediately rectify known problems?
- What longer-term reforms to you plan to implement?
- How will you change the culture of theVA so a travesty of this nature never happens again?
- If it does not already exist, what authority will you request from Congress that affords you and your subordinates the ability to discipline or terminate career SES or GS employees found acting with maleficence or misconduct?
Recently, a VA manager from a facility in Georgia, Cathedral Henderson, aged 50, was indicted for 50 counts of allegedly ordering his staff to falsify medical records. Despite these alleged actions, Henderson was not fired, but rather, was placed on leave, according to a report by Martin Matishak with the Fiscal Times.
The article states that House Veterans’ Affairs chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) accused current VA secretary Robert McDonald of moving too slowly to fire employees. McDonald responded that he was moving as quickly as he can under the constraints of current VA employee laws.
“It is utterly inexcusable,” Rep. Hurd concluded. “For the sake of our Veterans, I urge Secretary McDonald to take this new authority and clean house.”