Phoenix VA fires three officials -- twenty-five months after wait-list fraud exposed

Maybe the VA in Phoenix had a wait list for terminating incompetents and worse. More than two years after whistleblowers blew the lid off corruption that left dozens of veterans to die without access to health care, the facility at the epicenter of the scandal finally got around to canning some of those responsible. The VA declared it a good day for accountability.  No, really:

Associate Director Lance Robinson, Chief of Health Administration Service Brad Curry and Chief of Staff Dr. Darren Deering were terminated for the mismanagement and neglect of the PVAHCS, which resulted in the neglect and delayed treatment of veterans.

“We have an obligation to veterans and the American people to take appropriate accountability actions as supported by evidence,” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement. “While this process took far too long, the evidence supports these removals and sets the stage for moving forward.”

The people responsible for setting up (or refusing to stop) an elaborate fraud that denied medical care to veterans got paid for 25 months after the scam got exposed.That doesn’t feel much like accountability to me, and certainly won’t to the veterans who got left to rot while VA execs rang up big bonuses based on their wait-list scams. If that had happened in the private sector, the government would have started prosecuting HMO execs long before this pour encourager les autres — and to make the argument for single-payer health care, like the VA system.

The White House, which once backed Congressional action to make firing incompetent and corrupt officials easier, decided last week that it wouldn’t defend the law. Why? Because, er, it makes it easier to fire incompetent and corrupt officials, that’s why:

Sharon Helman, the former director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, is suing the VA to win back her old job. Helman argues in court papers that a key portion of a 2014 law passed in response to the wait-time scandal is unconstitutional and denies her an important step to appeal her firing.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a letter to Congress that the Justice Department has decided not to contest that element of Helman’s challenge, essentially agreeing with her legal position. Still, the Justice Department will continue fighting against Helman’s reinstatement, Lynch said. …

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called the attorney general’s decision in the Helman case “shameful” and said it contradicts a statement Obama made when he signed the VA reform law in August 2014.

“If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period,” Obama said at a signing ceremony at a Virginia military base.

Lynch’s decision “not only undermines the law that Congress passed and the president supported, but it sends a clear message that for President Obama and Attorney General Lynch, the sanctity of a federal bureaucrat’s job is far more important than the health and well-being of our veterans,” McCain said.

Shameful doesn’t begin to cover it. This is a promise broken on top of many previous promises to veterans, and it’s being done in an almost covert manner. And for that matter, even those who did finally get fired will likely wind up back on the payroll eventually, as we have already seen with other VA officials who managed to work themselves out of a job. Check back in six months — and they’ll probably get back pay when they do return.

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