The Department of Veterans Affairs is unfortunately not an organization associated with providing our military veterans with the best possible care they deserve. Back in 2014, the VA was exposed for fostering an environment where veterans experienced extraordinarily long wait times, which in some cases resulted in the deaths of these veterans, and it was also revealed that a few VA officials worked very hard to cover this up. The scandal was so bad that it finally prompted politicians on both sides of the aisle to call for massive reforms within the VA health care system.
Reforming the VA has, and continues to be a main priority for President Trump. When he assumed the office of President, he wasted no time cleaning house at the VA, getting rid of employees who didn’t deserve to be there. Even before President Trump signed the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Act, he managed to fire 566 staffers. The VA has a total staff of about 345,000 people, and to terminate more than 500 in less than six months is a significant message to other VA employees that they need to be performing at their best.
When President Trump signed the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Act, the law removed job protections many VA employees had enjoyed for years while they abused our veterans. Specifically, the law removes the civil service due process protections for all VA employees as well as creates the logistics to fire people faster. When he signed this much-needed legislation, President Trump said, “Some of the employees involved in these [wait list] scandals remained on the payrolls. Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable.” This accountability has finally been put on display for all of America to see, and reinforces that President Trump is keeping his campaign promise of draining the swamp, especially when it comes to the VA.
Taking a look at employee firings in the VA during the second half of 2017, covering the period from August to mid December of this year, the total amount of firings rose from 566 to 756, or an average of approximately 94 fired VA employees per month. Gone are the days when VA employees can put veterans on wait lists, neglect their job duties, and still collect a paycheck without consequence. In response to the massive amount of firings going on at the VA, Marilyn Park, who is a legislative representative for the American Federation of Government Employees said, “I don’t think this has accomplished what they want it to accomplish.” However, this sentiment is not shared within the Trump administration or those who still have their jobs at the VA.
Refuting the claims of Ms. Park, and others who somehow feel victimized by this legislation intended to protect our veterans, Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman said, “The (legislation) is one of the most significant federal civil service reforms in decades and is helping instill across the department the type of workforce accountability veterans and taxpayers deserve.” It is this very accountability which is much needed in the VA system, and which government employee unions would rather do without.
The Trump administration is also setting a precedent by being the first administration to have the VA publicly post the statistics of employees they fire, asserting that the move provides a level of transparency which taxpayers and veterans deserve. Some of the most notable firings were the eight senior staff dismissed from their positions by the Trump administration, four of which were sent packing before President Trump signed the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Act.
VA spokesman Curt Cashour has made it very clear that all VA workers regardless of position will be fired if they do not perform at the level they are expected to, saying, “Culture spans the entire organization. As with any government agency or business, VA has more rank-and-file workers than senior leaders, and we hold them accountable when warranted, regardless of rank or position.”
The VA did not indicate when, how, or if the 700 plus firings that took place in 2017 have seen replacements. The AFGE, which is the largest government employee union has been critical of these new protections afforded to our veterans by claiming foolishly that increased firings don’t necessarily equate to more accountability. However, the Trump administration disagrees, and it is clear that with the massive amount of firings which have taken place, those employees who remain in the VA system are very likely staying on their toes ensuring that their job performance warrants them keeping their job which in the end was what President Trump and his administration intended.
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