It’s been the better part of two years now since we first learned of the outrageous situation at the Phoenix, Arizona VA where veterans were kept on secret waiting lists for months or years to hide the fact that they weren’t able to get in to see a doctor. That revelation led to a deeper look at the agency where one scandal after another has turned up since then. When the details of the original scandal were revealed, three executives at the Arizona facility were identified as being responsible for the horrific lack of care our veterans were seeing and the cover-up of their misdeeds. They were Lance Robinson, Brad Curry and Dr. Darren Deering.
In case you’re wondering what happened to them, the answer thus far is… pretty much nothing. They’ve been collecting their full pay and benefits all this time. But now that’s about to change… maybe. (Daily Caller)
“It is vitally important to Veterans in Phoenix and across the nation to understand that we will take appropriate accountability action as warranted by the evidence,” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement. “Frankly, I am disappointed that it took as long as it did for proposed actions to be made but I am satisfied that we carefully reviewed a massive amount of evidence to ensure the accountability actions are supported.”
A group known as the Concerned Employees of the Phoenix VA wrote a letter in reaction to Gibson’s announcement. For these employees, it’s important to remember the administrators have not yet been fired. So far, the only action is a proposed removal. The difference between the two, given the VA’s seeming inability to get rid of corrupt executives, is noteworthy.
Here’s where the Daily Caller hones in on the truly disturbing aspect of this story. Not only were the directors of this failed and disgraced institution left on the payroll all this time, now that Sloan Gibson is on track to finally get rid of them the process could take nearly two years to play out. (AZ Central, some emphasis added)
U.S. Rep Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, praised the firings as “clearly the right thing” for Phoenix-area veterans and VA employees who want to serve veterans.
“But we cannot forget the fact that it took nearly two years of investigations just to get to this point, and this is just the beginning of the disciplinary process,” Miller said. “The truth is, because of arcane civil service protections that put the job security of corrupt bureaucrats before the safety of veterans, it will take many months and possibly years for VA to complete these proposed disciplinary actions.”
Deering will still be allowed to draw his pay while he is the subject of the administrative investigation, a process that can be drawn out 700 days or longer.
Dr. Deering, just in case you were wondering, is collecting a salary of $246K per year and will continue to do so as these proceedings roll out. But hey… at least they’ll finally cut loose the authors of this disaster, right? Not so fast there, Skippy. Even if they manage to work through the endless process and fire these three, there is still the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to be dealt with. No matter how egregious the violations nor how outraged the public may be, a single judge from the MSPB can turn around and order them reinstated to their positions with full back pay for any time lost. (For news of how the Senate is finally looking into the MSPB, follow the link.)
Here’s a qualified tip of the hat to Sloan Gibson for finally attempting to so the right thing. But don’t expect the story to end any time soon or to smell any better than it already does.