Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.Stage magicians have got nothing on Trump when it comes to making the press watch the wrong hand.
Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.
Rush Limbaugh used the analogy of shining a laser pointer for a kitten. The kitten never catches the red dot, never even feels the red dot with his paws, but will go chasing around the house smashing into walls and furniture in the never-ending quest to get that dot. This is what Trump is doing to the media.
And it doesn't stop with those 748. According to that Daily Caller piece:
- Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police and a chief of surgery.
- Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.
- One record shows a “senior leader” being removed January 20, while another record shows a “senior leader” being demoted April 21. Those appear to refer to the same person — disgraced Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin — who returned to work in a lesser job after he appealed to the MSPB. (Merit Systems Protection Board)
- There were five firings in the Veterans Health Administration Central Office, including one senior leader. There were also two in the Office of General Counsel, and one in the office of Congressional and Legislative affairs.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.The problems at the VA are legendary; I mean it's widely known that veterans have died waiting for care, patient's medical files were hidden so that they couldn't get care, and all the while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses. Fixes have been slow to come largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees. That's getting to be an all too familiar story.
In addition to reluctance by managers to vigorously pursue firings, the overturning of firings after the fact by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) — often with little public acknowledgment — has been a longstanding problem.
Shulkin asked for new legislation that reduces the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in answer, and Trump signed the bill in June.
While I'm not a vet and I'm not in the system, I know many who are in the system, and in various fights for care. From what I can tell, here in small town Florida, the local VA facilities are not really bad, but they are still the VA and usually frustrating as all hell. When I mentioned reading this to a couple of friends tonight, they both were astonished that they could successfully fire someone in the VA.
Hats off to Trump for getting this done without firing off the media outrage machine.