VA Secretary’s Claims on Meet the Press Obscure The Facts
Arlington, Va. – During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald claimed that 60 VA employees had been fired for manipulating patient wait time data. But according to a weekly report VA provides the House Veterans Affairs Committee each week (as of Feb. 5, 2015)—only seven employees have actually been fired for this offense.
He also claimed that “900 [VA employees] have been fired” during his time as head of the VA, but if these numbers are correct, then the pace of VA firings under Secretary McDonald is actually slower than it was under Secretary Shinseki—with 4,300 employees being fired or removed in Shinseki’s last two years in office. If half as many employees have been removed under McDonald, is he really holding people accountable? Following a massive—and confirmed—national wait list scandal, shouldn’t the rate of firings be up? These questions remain unanswered.
Additionally, Secretary McDonald claimed that 100 senior VA executives are “under investigation.” Yet, at this time, no senior VA executives have actually been fired because of their actions related to patient wait time data manipulation. In fact, just today, the Arizona Republic reported the VA has botched the investigations of several senior employees in at the Phoenix VA hospital—the facility where VA scandal began and dozens of veterans died while waiting on secret wait lists.
Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, issued the following statement in response:
“When our organization supported Secretary McDonald’s nomination last year, we were hopeful he would aggressively confront VA’s toxic and bureaucratic culture. Instead, six months into his job, McDonald is reflexively defensive of the same culture he was charged with confronting. And now, he’s fudging the numbers to make VA looks better. It’s time for the VA—and Secretary McDonald—to tell the truth.
“According to the weekly report VA provides to the House Veterans Affairs Committee, only seven VA employees have been fired for manipulating patient wait time data. So why did Secretary McDonald claim that 60 employees have been fired for manipulating patient wait time data? Why are the numbers he cites on TV different than the numbers he VA gives Congress?
“McDonald promised to bring reform to the VA, but his recent actions, including undermining recent reforms passed into law to increase accountability at the VA and health care choice for veterans, suggest he’s more concerned with protecting VA employees and preserving a failing bureaucracy than serving veterans. It’s a damn shame.”
Just last week McDonald attacked Representative Mike Coffman, an Iraq war veteran, when Rep. Coffman asked questions about a Denver VA hospital that’s both over-budget and behind schedule on construction. When the heated exchange was raised on Meet the Press, Secretary McDonald was given the opportunity to apologize for his short-tempered comments, but he failed to do so. To this end, read CVA Legislative and Political Director Dan Caldwell’s op-ed in The Blaze: Secretary McDonald, What Have YOU Done?
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Concerned Veterans for America is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for policies that will preserve the freedom and liberty we and our families so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.