How many more of these stories are out there waiting to be told? The Daily Caller has struck again in their ongoing investigation of corruption at the VA, as well as the impossibility of getting rid of anyone who is failing at their job, incompetent or simply breaking the law. This time it’s a story which dates back to 2013. The head of the St. Louis Department of Veterans Affairs hospital at that time was one Rima Nelson. Things didn’t go so well with Rima in charge, and by “not so well” I mean that 1,800 patients were potentially exposed to HIV because of dirty surgical instruments. That was only one of the failures discovered at the facility and the entire affair was essentially a disaster.
Clearly Nelson had to go, and she did. But as the DC reports, she wasn’t fired. She wasn’t even suspended. In fact, it was something much less unpleasant.
Nelson wasn’t fired. Her VA superiors hid her literally on the other side of the Earth in 2013 at the department’s only foreign facility, a seldom-used clinic inside the palatial U.S. Embassy in the Philippines capital city of Manila.
She resides in a government-provided condo and gets the same $160,000 salary she made in St. Louis, which allows her to live like royalty in a country where the average person makes only $2,500 a year.
The Manila VA office provides outpatient care and disability checks to the few surviving Filipino World War II veterans who fought alongside Americans against the Japanese. The occasional American veteran who happens to be in the country can also get outpatient care in the Manila VA facility.
That’s go to be some pretty sweet duty. I don’t know how many Filipino WW2 veterans are still surviving, but I can’t imagine that the patient load is terribly high. And it’s simply amazing that anyone can bring down $160K per year while living there. I spent a few years there on and off myself, and while I’m sure things have changed a bit over the years, the cost of living was beyond ridiculously low. One Navy Senior Chief from our department saved up his money (and Navy pay for single guys has never been much to crow about) and just stayed there when he retired. He bought a bar in the small town outside the old Navy base. He also bought a house. With housekeeping staff. On a Navy enlisted man’s pay.
The real tragedy here is that Rima Nelson is hardly the only person who has been shuffled around rather than getting the boot. Follow the link above and you’ll find their investigation of the Bad Boss Merry-Go-Round, in which more than 100 executives were shuttled between three or more duty stations in less than eight years. More than a few were moved to avoid disciplinary action.
In some regards, it’s almost hard to blame them. Even if they do try to fire someone they just wind up being reinstated upon appeal anyway. But as a taxpayer, at least you have the comfort of knowing that you’re paying for it all.