To give credit where credit is due, the Veterans Administration manages to keep surprising me. Just recently we talked about an instance where they managed to actually suspend someone without pay for misconduct and to get the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to go along with them. Granted, it took a grand jury bringing the person up on charges for dozens of serious felonies, but hey… you take the sunshine where you can find it.
Well, it’s been a banner week for me in terms of the VA because the Daily Caller News Foundation has managed to identify yet another instance of a worker at the VA who was not just suspended, but fired. I know… I know.. you’re incredulous. But they actually did it. They managed to fire Anthony Salazar from the Greater Los Angeles office. And what was his crime? He noticed that his office had managed to “lose” thirty government owned vehicles and found suspicious activity on their credit cards and was silly enough to try to report it.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) bosses fired an employee for reporting a hospital lost 30 of its 88 vehicles and official credit cards intended for the fleet had been misused.
Robert Benkeser, manager at the Greater Los Angeles VA, fired whistle-blower Anthony Salazar after Salazar tried to bring the theft to light. The department convened an “administrative investigation board” (AIB) that resulted in “a letter of counseling” to Benkeser for mismanaging the motor pool. Benkeser then fired Salazar several months later…
“Mr. Salazar described how 30 of the 88 agency vehicles were unaccounted for, explained how ten fleet cards were suspected of fraudulent purchases, and pressed the urgent need for the VA to get the situation under control,” OSC wrote.
Salazar was fired Feb. 4, 2015. The ease with which Salazar was fired — he was put on a “performance improvement plan,” told he didn’t meet the goals, then let go — stands in contrast to the many employees who unambiguously committed egregious misconduct and are still on the job.
How do you lose thirty cars? Okay… I can see a dozen or so motor fleet credit cards being abused. You run across some bad apples in any large organization and a company card is a tempting target if they want to fill up their own tank. But more than two dozen vehicles? Even if they weren’t stolen and sold off that represents willful ignorance and incompetence at a criminal level.
I would have long since grown tired of covering these stories were it not for the important nature of the subject matter and the critical need for Congress to continue their investigative work and bring some accountability to the agency. I know I often try to inject some humor into what are serious abuses of not only government resources, but the welfare of veterans and even some workers, but what else are you going to do? You can either laugh at the absurdity of it or cry. Take your pick.
These aren’t one or two isolated findings. Just click on our tag for VA Scandal and you’ll find so many stories – plenty of which are far worse than this one – that the conclusions are obvious. The VA has been promising to clean up their act, but the system is so ripe with generational abuse and bad actors in at least some offices that it will take a long time to clean them all out. Until then, the work continues.