What does it take to get fired from the VA? It’s not unheard-of for the agency to terminate people; they canned more than 1700 employees in between July 2014 and July 2015, NBC’s Washington affiliate reports.

Some local Veterans Affairs employees weren’t fired despite severe cases of misconduct — including sleeping in hospital patient rooms or having sex while on the job, according to a News4 I-Team investigation.

A review of agency disciplinary records shows agency leaders issued reprimands or brief suspensions to dozens of employees who’d engaged in misconduct in recent months at local Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Martinsburg, West Virginia. …

The I-Team also found a recent series of acts of employee misconduct at the Martinsburg Medical Center.

  • Some employees had sex on the facility grounds, according to the records.
  • In another case, an employee was found sleeping while on the job, beneath a blanket in a patient room.
  • Another employee was investigated for being high on cocaine while on duty.
  • Another worker was arrested for distribution of heroin off-the-job, but was allowed to return to work.
  • In an 2013 incident, the agency suspended a Martinsburg employee for bringing a loaded gun and a knife onto the grounds.

It’s worth noting that the heroin arrest doesn’t necessarily mean a conviction, but … did this employee’s job give him access to pharmacies? The VA explains the case of the armed employee by noting his previously excellent work record. That still leaves the couple having sex in the VA facility, and the other literally sleeping on the job while the VA figuratively continues to do so on wait times for veteran access.

The VA doesn’t mind taking action against the real troublemakers in any bureaucracy, however — whistleblowers:

Meanwhile, Congress would like to know how two demoted VA executives kept their pay while supposedly being demoted for their manipulation of the VA system. Lisa Rein reports for the Washington Post that Congress has grown frustrated with a lack of seriousness by Secretary Robert McDonald and his deputy, Sloan Gibson:

Lawmakers are expected to press Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson on Wednesday on the case of two senior executives who were demoted in November in response to allegations that they manipulated VA’s hiring system for their own gain.

Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves were demoted from senior executives, the highest rank for career employees, one rank down to GS 15 on the General Schedule.

VA’s deputy inspector general found in a report this fall that Rubens and Graves forced lower-ranking regional managers to accept job transfers against their will. The women then took the vacant positions themselves, keeping their pay but reducing their responsibility.

Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), joined by the American Legion, criticized the demotions as inadequate punishment and said Rubens and Graves should have been fired. The women also face possible criminal prosecution. They had received more than $400,000 in questionable moving expenses through a relocation program for VA executives, the watchdog found. Miller has criticized VA officials for not recouping the money. …

McDonald has been under pressure to show he is doing more to hold wrongdoers accountable. He has publicly given conflicting numbers of employees his staff has disciplined and fired since he has been in charge. The committee is likely to press Gibson on the secretary’s varying accounts.

Suffice it to say that the VA continues to conduct itself in a manner unbecoming to the sacrifice made by veterans for this nation’s security. The responsibility for that, more than eighteen months after the VA scandal first broke, extends farther northward than McDonald. The Senate has stalled on the House bill that would give more firing authority to the VA Secretary, but McDonald’s inconsistent and flat-out false statements leave little confidence that the enhanced authority would make much of a difference — except perhaps in expediting the ousters of whistleblowers.