Arlington, VA – Federal authorities are investigating numerous criminal cases of drug theft and unauthorized usage by employees at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. The Associated Press recently reported thirty-six criminal investigations opened by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) from October 1 of last year through May 19 of this year, bringing the total number of open criminal cases over 100. The news comes after the VA pledged “zero tolerance” of drug thefts this past February.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from earlier this year exposed employee drug theft problems continuing to worsen at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA’s own data indicates there has been a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions or unauthorized drug use by employees since 2009. In addition, recent audits expose that four VA hospitals have skipped monthly drug stock inspections and have missed other routine requirements.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“As sad as it is, it shouldn’t really come as a major revelation that VA employees may still be stealing and using drugs intended for veterans in need. Under current law, VA employees don’t have any incentive to follow the rules because they know it’s nearly impossible for them to get fired no matter what they do. Next week, the Senate will vote on legislation that will give Secretary Shulkin the authority to immediately terminate employees who engage in that kind of criminal misconduct. Until President Trump signs the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law, bad VA employees will not be held accountable for their actions and veterans will continue to suffer as a result.”
CVA is urging Congress to pass the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which will be voted on by the Senate next week. The bill passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC) with bipartisan support last week. It is supported by every major veterans organization, as well as Secretary Shulkin himself, who has repeatedly outlined the need for him to be given the authority to fire bad employees quickly.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will reduce the time it takes to fire bad employees at the VA, give Secretary Shulkin the ability to recoup bonuses awarded to employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct, and reduce the pensions of VA employees found guilty of felonies related to their employment at the VA. The bill ensures that VA employees who are terminated will not remain on the VA payroll while appealing their terminations. The bill will also increase protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that they are not retaliated against for speaking up about wrongdoings at the department.