Arlington, VA – A USA TODAY investigation released today found that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) concealed serious errors and misconduct by staff entrusted with the care of veterans. In as many as 126 cases, the VA found the workers’ misconduct or mistakes were serious enough that they should have been fired. In a majority of those settlements, the VA agreed to purge negative records from personnel files or give neutral or positive references to future employers. The investigation found that many of the VA employees who received sizeable settlements were actually responsible for the problems they were terminated over.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“The VA’s long record of concealing the mistakes and misdeeds of staff is a perfect example of why recently enacted VA accountability legislation was so desperately needed. Now, it is easier to remove employees who engage in misconduct and compromise the safety of the veterans who rely on the VA for care. The care of a veteran should always be the top priority for the VA and bad employees must be held accountable.”
In June, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. The bill reduces the time it takes to fire bad employees at the VA, gives VA Secretary David Shulkin the ability to recoup bonuses awarded to employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct, and reduces the pensions of VA employees found guilty of felonies related to their employment at the VA. The measure also ensures that VA employees who are terminated will not remain on the VA payroll while appealing their terminations. The bill increases protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that they are not retaliated against for speaking up about wrongdoings at the department.
CVA was the leading veterans organization pushing for accountability reform at the VA since the group was founded in 2012. CVA ran a national grassroots campaign urging elected officials to support the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 via hundreds of thousands of activist calls and emails, as well as targeted web ads and local events across the country.