Surprise: Bureaucrats oppose easier termination for bureaucrats

posted at 2:01 pm on July 29, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Congress finally reached a bipartisan agreement on reform for the VA, which consists mainly of more money now with promises for more accountability later. The agreement between the two heads of Veterans Affairs Committees, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), fell into the expected form of more funding and greater flexibility on personnel management in order to get rid of problem managers and executives. Still missing — real options for veterans trapped within a chronically-failing system:

According to the draft agreement, $15 billion more in funding will be allocated to the VA, which has faced accusations of being understaffed, among other allegations. CNBC has learned that the agreement includes the following:

  • Emergency funding to give veterans who can’t get a medical appointment at the VA the option to receive non-VA care
  • More money to address VA’s in-house needs
  • Authority for the VA secretary to immediately fire corrupt or incompetent senior executives, while providing employees with streamlined appeal rights

As a short-term fix, this may work. It won’t solve the chronic problems at the VA, which come from the kind of unaccountability seen within any single-payer system. The problem with the non-VA option is that access to it is still controlled through the VA itself. Veterans who cannot get appointments within the wait-list parameters are eligible for care paid by the VA outside of its own network, which means that veterans have to demonstrate that wait lists are too long. This, of course, was the center of fraud at the VA that prompted the reform effort in the first place. By putting some of the VA’s funding on the line based on wait times, Congress has just incentivized more wait-list fraud at the VA, not less.

This is nothing more than throwing good money after bad in an attempt to rescue a system that is designed to resist accountability. Only when veterans can make the choice themselves as to which providers they see will the VA reform itself to be more responsive to their needs, and to be more accountable for their failures.

By the way, don’t expect the bureaucrats to put up with the expanded personnel-management authority for the VA Secretary. A group called the “Senior Executives Association” has already pushed back against the effort, according to the Washington Post, and want civil-service protections restored:

In a statement on Monday, the Senior Executives Association said it “continues to take exception to the belief that large numbers of senior executives are problem employees who are not held accountable.”

The planned legislation would allow the VA to fire or demote senior executives for “poor performance and misconduct,” according to a summary from Miller’s office. Employees would have one week to appeal the decisions, and the Merit Systems Protection Board would have to issue a ruling within three weeks.

Questions remain about whether the MSPB, which ensures fair treatment for federal workers, can handle a likely increase in appeals. The tiny agency is still digging itself out from thousands of furlough appeals that came after spending cuts last year forced many government employees to stay home without pay for several days.

“There’s no way the MSPB can process these cases within 21 days — it’s not physically possible,” said Kristin Alden, a D.C.-based attorney who specializes in federal-employment law and litigation. She added that the agency aims to issue rulings within 120 days under its own regulations.

Readers will not be shocked to learn that the SEA supports “other parts of the deal” — mainly the extra cash, even though the VA’s annual budget has increased 78% over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing Cabinet-agency budget in the Obama administration on a percentage basis (and #2 on a cash basis). When it comes to accountability, though, senior executives responsible for the performance of the agency prefer to pass the buck. And they may have a point, because the expanded authority really doesn’t change the trajectory of terminations so much as it expands the basis on which they can occur. If the MPSB is still a chokepoint for clearing out the deadwood, it just means that they’ll be stacking cords of deadwood higher and longer than ever — while still sucking taxpayers dry and leaving veterans without medical care for weeks, months, and years.

This isn’t “reform.” It’s kicking the can down the road and ensuring that veterans will still be at the mercy of unaccountable bureaucrats for the foreseeable future.


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Fire them all.

Lord Whorfin on July 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Close the VA system down and put them in civilian healthcare…

OmahaConservative on July 29, 2014 at 2:06 PM

And by all, I mean all managers.

Lord Whorfin on July 29, 2014 at 2:06 PM

Remember “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”….it isn’t.

d1carter on July 29, 2014 at 2:09 PM

The IRS’s solution to the Lois Lerner scandal is…….wait for it……..more money.

d1carter on July 29, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Every policy made by a bureaucracy should contain the names of all the people in that agency who agreed to it.

JellyToast on July 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

So they all harumphed except for one guy, and he was then made to harumph too.

Typical government bullshiite, throw money at the problem and protect themselves at all costs. I hope you lefties find yourselves trapped in this system one day, every last one of you.

Bishop on July 29, 2014 at 2:13 PM

the cost of working with the Machine is high…give them lots of money and they maybe will give you a little of what is good for the patients.

i saw part of the hearings several months ago. The Left totally doesn’t care about anything except for its Money and Power. The Rs would question the IG about some horrible details about unclear surgical instructions..the Left rattled on about more Money

obamacare is this writ large…leftists extorting more money to give in patronage before they’ll lift a finger to fix anything

r keller on July 29, 2014 at 2:13 PM

The irony here is that spouses and children of 100% disabled veterans are put on a program called CHAMPVA. CHAMPVA is a sister program to Medicare and actually shares the same forms for reimbursement by providers.

Those spouses and children of 100% disabled veterans who hold a CHAMPVA card are treated at civilian providers and are actually not eligible for treatment at VA facilities with only a few exceptions.

CHAMPVA beneficiaries pay a deductible and an additional 25% copay, but they can use any provider they choose. Vision, beyond one pair of eye glasses per year, dental, and hearing are not covered.

This system has been in place for decades and works very well for its beneficiaries.

Veterans should be issued a similar card that covers all the same services that veterans now get at VA providers and should be able to simply choose the provider and present that card. The VA should be billed for the services rendered to the veteran and the VA hospitals should be privatized immediately.

thatsafactjack on July 29, 2014 at 2:14 PM

More money for the border crisis and more money for the VA scandal, but no real reforms.

Wigglesworth on July 29, 2014 at 2:16 PM

This isn’t “reform.” It’s kicking the can down the road and ensuring that veterans will still be at the mercy of unaccountable bureaucrats for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t kick anything down the road. This is what you get, right side, left side, they didn’t kick it to the side, kick it back or in the air.

They did what all bureaucrats do, protect their interests. The Political Class ™ can’t be denied its rightful place.

The Common Man doesn’t count.

Walter L. Newton on July 29, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Fire them all.

Lord Whorfin on July 29, 2014 at 2:05 PM

And take back their bonus money. 100 million will buy a lot of treatment.

dogsoldier on July 29, 2014 at 2:21 PM

More money for the border crisis and more money for the VA scandal, but no real reforms.

Wigglesworth on July 29, 2014 at 2:16 PM

Real reform ain’t real popular.

dogsoldier on July 29, 2014 at 2:22 PM

The bureaucracy is everything the left ascribes to and despises in corporations.

Monopoly? Check.
Unaccountable? Check.
Undemocratic? Check.
Driven by greed? Check.
Inescapable? Check.
Robs people – especially the poor? Check.

gwelf on July 29, 2014 at 2:22 PM

In a statement on Monday, the Senior Executives Association said it “continues to take exception to the belief that large numbers of senior executives are problem employees who are not held accountable.”

If it were just an isolated incident with the SES that was running the Phoenix VA facility they might have a point. But this hiding the wait lists was a systemic institutional problem that clearly involves more than a few rogue Senior Executives.

Happy Nomad on July 29, 2014 at 2:23 PM

Our Government is our Mafia.

workingclass artist on July 29, 2014 at 2:24 PM

The bureaucracy is everything the left ascribes to and despises in corporations.

Monopoly? Check.
Unaccountable? Check.
Undemocratic? Check.
Driven by greed? Check.
Inescapable? Check.
Robs people – especially the poor? Check.

gwelf on July 29, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Property is theft.

Walter L. Newton on July 29, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Close the VA system down and put them in civilian healthcare…

OmahaConservative on July 29, 2014 at 2:06 PM

The dirty secret of federal bureaucracies is that most federal expenditures into welfare and social spending are actually sucked up by the bureaucracies and the corporate cronies of the bureaucracies. This is even true for things like NASA.

If you calculate how much is “spent” on the typical poor family and how much they actually receive you see that most federal spending is wasted on propping up bureaucracies and those who work for them.

gwelf on July 29, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Our Government is our Mafia.

workingclass artist on July 29, 2014 at 2:24 PM

It’s the only thing we all do together.

Capiche?

gwelf on July 29, 2014 at 2:27 PM

This isn’t “reform.” It’s kicking the can down the road and ensuring that veterans will still be at the mercy of unaccountable bureaucrats for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t kick anything down the road. This is what you get, right side, left side, they didn’t kick it to the side, kick it back or in the air.

They did what all bureaucrats do, protect their interests. The Political Class ™ can’t be denied its rightful place.

Walter L. Newton on July 29, 2014 at 2:18 PM

I’m going to respectfully disagree – with respects to the kicking of the can down the road.

That’s how these craven politicians, of both parties, kick the can down the road. They don’t seek solutions. They only seek how they can protect their petty and feckless interests, toss money at the problem, appear to have been bi-partisan and leaders, and do anything possible to avoid accountability, responsibility, or actually fixing something that is and has been incredibly broken.

Yes, Walter, it’s impossible to not hold these craven self-centered, self-important, wankers in our utter and complete contempt for their refusal (not inability, but a refusal) to do their effin jobs. The common man doesn’t count, and probably hasn’t for at least 2 decades…as the patrician class fully establishes themselves.

A pox on both of their houses…because that’s how they look down at us.

Athos on July 29, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Finally wake up from staying up late doing the Hugh Hewitt show, Ed? :P

NotCoach on July 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Property is theft.

Walter L. Newton on July 29, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Exactly, which is why is supposedly better for the angels that run government to centrally manage as much property as possible because that results in social justice. Just ignore all the bureaucrats making out like bandits. They’re brave public servants sacrificing what would otherwise be a lucrative career in the private sector because they care about you.

gwelf on July 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM

The federal bureaucracy – ALL of it – is the ultimate “self-licking ice cream cone”.
Most of it exists only because of and for its own existence.

dentarthurdent on July 29, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Congress finally reached a bipartisan agreement on reform for the VA, which consists mainly of more money now with promises for more accountability later.

Leave it to Ed to start his post with the punchline…

Newtie and the Beauty on July 29, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Readers will not be shocked to learn that the SEA supports “other parts of the deal” — mainly the extra cash, even though the VA’s annual budget has increased 78% over the last six years, making it the fastest-growing Cabinet-agency budget in the Obama administration on a percentage basis (and #2 on a cash basis).

Like the VA isn’t frittering away enough Tax Payer $$$$ already…

Newtie and the Beauty on July 29, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Plus, the new goon who runs the VA just threatened the black whistle-blower to “quit talking to Fox, or else”. The guy speaks anyway. Go to Hell, all thugs. I hope you burn, slowly.

Schadenfreude on July 29, 2014 at 2:34 PM

It’s just about impossible to get fired from a federal job, no matter how badly you screw up.

bw222 on July 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

“War on Vets”

Sven on July 29, 2014 at 2:46 PM

How to solve a corrupt, incompetent, over-spending government bureaucracy…throw more money at it in order to foster more corruption, more incompetency and over-spending.

cajunpatriot on July 29, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Why is this surprising to anyone?

It was, sadly, predestined. Money now, accountability later. Except: Not.
Meanwhile, the career bureaucrats are shocked, shocked that anyone would question their reliability, objectivity nor general excellence—thereby rendering quicker termination options of no real need.

Secession, or worse, cannot happen soon enough. And yet, it will not.
The frogs will all remain in the pot, and boil.

orangemtl on July 29, 2014 at 3:06 PM

The VA worked a lot better when it wasn’t a cabinet department.

One of Reagan’s biggest mistakes.

formwiz on July 29, 2014 at 3:19 PM

more money now with promises for more accountability later

Yeah, that will work. So how big will the annual bonus be?

Sort of like 1986 – 2 MILLION get amnesty and they’ll “secure the border”.

GarandFan on July 29, 2014 at 3:31 PM

So, more they screw up, the more money they get?

Sounds just like DC.

Those who can’t do, manage (and get big bucks). Those who can’t manage, go to Washington.

Oxymoron on July 29, 2014 at 3:42 PM

Looks an ‘oldie but goody’ – rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

vnvet on July 29, 2014 at 4:16 PM

Every policy made by a bureaucracy should contain the names of all the people in that agency who agreed to it.

JellyToast on July 29, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Don’t be silly. One of the things in the bureaucrat employee book is to never have your name on anything.

crankyoldlady on July 29, 2014 at 4:33 PM

SOSDD.

trigon on July 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

This isn’t “reform.” It’s kicking the can down the road and ensuring that veterans will still be at the mercy of unaccountable bureaucrats for the foreseeable future

AGREED! But, as always, taxpayers are forced to pay for the road, the can, and salary/benefits/outrageous perks for the can-kickers.

pilsener on July 29, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Push vets, eventually they push back. Perhaps violently. Count the days until some veteran who has had it with them all and has nothing to live for walks into a VA administration building and starts thinning the herd.

At this point, would you blame them?

kurtzz3 on July 29, 2014 at 7:50 PM

4 Dead Americans, to include the 1st Ambassador murdered in over 30 years; an Al Qaeda militia hired to protect him, the President AWOL during the 12hr attack; WH lies about a video…that was created by the same group that built the ACA Web Site
- No one Fired, No one Jailed, everyone still drawing a paycheck and mega benefits.

easyt65 on July 30, 2014 at 9:57 AM

Americans targeted by the IRS; Lois Lerner admits to it in front of reporters, claims it originated within her department, and apologizes for it.
- No one fired, no one Jailed, everyone still drawing paychecks and benefits.

easyt65 on July 30, 2014 at 9:58 AM