New VA secretary "begs" for more power to fire delinquent federal workers

I’ll confess (since I’m already on the record anyway) that I had my share of doubts when President Trump decided to put David Shulkin in charge of the VA. It just seemed to me that a holdover from the Obama administration who had been in the thick of it during the entire VA scandal might not be the best “new broom” to sweep clean. But since that time he’s pleasantly surprised me. Almost as soon as he was announced, Ed Morrissey noticed that heads were already set to roll at the agency and the guy looked as if he was going to make some real changes. And now we learn that Shulkin went before Congress to deal with another nagging matter which has been effectively hamstringing any efforts at reform. He’s begging for the authority to more easily fire workers who get caught doing things like watching pornography while they are with patients. (Sadly that’s not a joke or an exaggeration.) The news broke over at Government Executive.

The Veterans Affairs Department should be able to fire any employee caught watching pornography at work immediately, according to its recently sworn in secretary.

The request comes after a Houston-based medical center employee was found, after a “through [sic] internal review,” to have viewed pornography while with a patient. The employee is currently on paid administrative leave, but has not yet been fired as VA is required by law to provide 30 days of notice to its workers before terminating them. VA Secretary David Shulkin said that law, which governs the entire federal workforce, must change.

“This is an example of why we need accountability legislation as soon as possible,” Shulkin said. “It’s unacceptable that VA has to wait 30 days to act on a proposed removal.”

So the guy who was viewing pornography sites wasn’t some office drone handling paperwork. He was actually a front line worker who had to deal with patients and was doing this while he was in with and presumably taking care of one of our veterans. Initially, thanks to the current rules which were pretty much written by the unions, they couldn’t even suspend him. He was moved out of patient care responsibilities and into an “administrative role” at the Texas facility. When they did finally manage to get him out the door he was put on leave with full pay and benefits and those same rules dictate that nothing could be done for at least 30 days after he was initially notified that they were considering terminating him.

For those of you who work in the private sector out there, let me just ask you a question. If you were caught doing that, would you even be allowed to collect your things from your desk before you were unceremoniously dumped in the parking lot?

So Shulkin wants the ability to fire this guy and others like him a bit faster. Good luck with that, sir. While we’re all pulling for you (aside from those in the aforementioned unions), I don’t know how well you will fare. This is a known problem which has been going on for years and absolutely nothing of substance has been done about it. Let’s keep in mind that Shulkin is in charge of the same VA where it was determined that a different worker couldn’t be fired even after having been convicted of driving the getaway car at a holdup. We’ve covered more of these stories than I can count, including workers at the VA who were selling drugs out of their desks at the office, stealing medication which was supposed to be given to patients and the list goes on. Each and every one wound up either keeping their job to this day or taking a ridiculously long time to flush out of the system.

Maybe Shulkin can produce some results, but it would be a nearly miraculous feat. All of these laws were put in place at the behest of the unions and those negotiations take place with nobody representing the taxpayers at the table. They’ve been doing business this way for so long they undoubtedly feel that such preferential treatment is an entitlement at this point. But if they do manage to dump the porn watcher in question and he has to go look for work in the private sector I’d love to be a fly on the wall observing what happens. He’s in for a rude awakening.