July 7, 2017
by Jeremy Schwartz – American-Statesman Staff
As part of a push for increased transparency, the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday released a list of nearly 700 employees who have been fired, suspended or demoted since January, including two dozen from the VA region that includes Central Texas.
Most of the local firings are of lower-level workers, including nurses, medical assistants and supply technicians. One “senior leader” was fired in April. The VA didn’t publish the names of the fired workers, reason for their discipline or the facility where they worked.
The list is an initiative from the newly created VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, created by an executive order from President Donald Trump in April and made permanent in recently adopted legislation. The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, signed last month, makes it easier to fire employees, lowering the threshold of evidence needed for disciplinary action.
“Under this administration, VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in government,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said in announcing what he said would be a weekly listing of disciplined employees. “This additional step will continue to shine a light on the actions we’re taking to reform the culture at VA.”
Conservative lawmakers and advocacy groups have called for greater ease in firing and disciplining VA employees since the scandals over manipulated data on how long veterans had to wait for VA care erupted in 2014, including at several VA facilities in Central Texas and San Antonio.