DC VA Director Moved, but Retained After Putting Veterans in “Imminent Danger”
Arlington, VA – Today the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued an alert that patients at the VA facility in Washington DC are in imminent danger. Shortly thereafter, the VA removed the DC VA director from the position and temporarily assigned him to administrative duties.
According to the report, hospital staff there is insufficiently equipped to perform operations, despite senior VA officials knowing about low inventory levels and unsterile conditions for months. While looking into this problem, investigators found that out of 25 sterile storage areas, 18 were dirty.
This rare, preliminary OIG report also found that in the past three years at this facility, there have been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment. These reports include surgeons using expired equipment during operations and biopsies being canceled because the right tools weren’t available.
In the report, the OIG stated that they thought it was appropriate to publish these findings as their investigation continues because of the “exigent nature” of the issues they identified and also the “lack of confidence in VHA adequately and timely fixing the root causes of these issues.”
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell had the following to say:
“It is completely unacceptable that veterans have been subjected to such dangerous conditions at the Washington DC VA. The VA did the right thing by relieving the DC director from his position, but he’s still being paid by taxpayers and under current law it will be very difficult to terminate him. Secretary Shulkin himself has said he wants Congress to pass legislation that will make it easier for him to quickly fire bad employees in situations like these. These systemic and reoccurring fire drills will not stop until the Senate moves on the strong accountability measures currently on the table.”
President Trump, Secretary Shulkin, and most major veterans organizations support the VA Accountability First Act. Recently, Secretary Shulkin issued a press release explicitly calling upon Congress to enact legislation that would make it easier for him to fire bad VA employees. His statement came in response to a situation where he was unable to quickly fire a VA employee who watched porn with a patient.
The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 passed through the House with bipartisan support last month. The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), has not yet been scheduled for a vote.
If passed, the 2017 VA Accountability First Act would drastically shorten the overall termination and appeals process for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct. Currently, that process can take months or even years. The bill also empowers the VA Secretary to recoup bonuses awarded in error or given to employees who were later found to have engaged in misconduct. Additionally, the bill gives the VA Secretary the ability to reduce the pensions of VA employees who are convicted of felonies that influenced their job performance.