It’s only been a few weeks since President Trump signed the VA reform bill into law, but we may already be seeing some results which have been developing since the inauguration. CBS News reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs, still struggling with a years long series of scandals with their personnel, has fired more than 500 workers since January and has applied disciplinary procedures to hundreds more. This is so out of keeping with the usual practices of the department that it’s clearly noteworthy.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that more than 500 officials have been fired for misconduct since President Trump took office earlier this year, according to data posted online.
In an effort for more transparency and accountability within the VA, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin announced that a public list of employee “accountability actions” will be posted online and updated weekly.
The list outlines a total of 747 disciplinary actions including 526 employees who were fired since January 20.
The law in question came about as a follow-up to the executive order Trump signed in April creating an entity which I playfully described as “the Office of Your Butt is Fired.” Obviously these “resource actions” have been taking place since well before the law went into effect, but it hopefully represents a larger trend which has been developing since the new sheriff came to town. Due to privacy constraints, we’re not being told the names of the individuals who were dismissed. That’s rather curious when you consider that these are all government positions which are funded on the taxpayer dime, so the dismissal of malfeasant employees sounds like something which should be in the public record. But the results are still a hopeful sign for the future.
While improvements have been made, there are still too many instances of poorly performing or even criminal employees at the agency which keep coming to light. We only recently covered the story of one worker who defrauded the taxpayers of more than $100K in wages for hours not worked and there are plenty more where that came from. So is this situation finally changing?
Possibly. And one big factor may be the current state of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). That’s the government entity we’ve written about here at length where fired or suspended workers can appeal their cases and frequently not only get their jobs back, but be awarded back pay to boot. The MSPB has been in something of a state of suspended animation since board chairwoman Susan Tsui Grundmann abruptly resigned in January, months ahead of the scheduled end of her tenure. The board is currently down to a single member, Vice Chairman Mark A. Robbins, so they don’t even have the required quorum to make any decisions.
One might speculate as to whether or not this is an intentional decision by the President, but that would require some mind-reading I’m not going to attempt here. But regardless of the reasons, it’s at least possible that workers are being more diligent at this point because they’re aware that VA employees aren’t simply getting a free pass anymore. Combine that with the removal of the bad apples already identified and… who knows? The end of the long-running VA scandal may finally be on the horizon.