The Veteran Affairs seems to be incapable of holding itself accountable. Even in light of recent scandals, corruption, and horrible revelations about manipulation of processes against veterans, leaders are not being held accountable. Repeated attempts to fire executives who deliberately manipulated the system for their own benefit have been rejected. As of the 17th of June, the VA has now officially abandoned the 2014 law that allows for the expedited firing of employees.
The law, a part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act, reduced the appeal time for employees to three weeks and did not allow them to appeal the decision of an administrative judge. The key plaintiff in the case, Sharon Helman is best remembered as the director of the Phoenix VA hospital that was shown to be creating secret wait-lists for veterans to hide the true times associated with their delayed care.
Originally signed into law by the President, the attorney General, Loretta Lynch has identified that the fast-tracking of the appeal process is unconstitutional. The previous method allowed employees to appeal their terminations with the Merit Systems Protection Board which could take months to work through the system. During this time, the employee would remain in a paid status. Helman, who the government attempted to fire for the wait-list scandal, was ultimately fired for accepting unauthorized gifts to include Beyonce tickets and a Disneyland trip.
In light of the deemed unconstitutionality of the previous bill, a new bill is being worked through the system. With 43 Senate cosponsors, it would allow the VA secretary to fire employees and removes the Merit Board completely. Like many other bills, this one is currently held up in debate as additional bills have been tacked on to it.
The VA has become the primary example of government waste and failure to the veteran community. Its continued rampant abuses with little to no reform demonstrate a constant recognition that veterans are little more than political tools to be touted out for the cameras when election time has arrived, and ignored immediately following those elections.
Politicians seem incapable of reining in the organization or providing the means to change it. With every attempt, another obstacle is created which thwarts the attempt. As the political double speak continues, veterans are still waiting for quality care, in a timely manner. They are being asked to ignore abuses against them, to ignore the corruption committed for personal gain, and to stand in line quietly. Even the VA secretary dismisses the wait times as irrelevant and correlates the experience to that of waiting in line at Disneyland, as if finally getting to ride Space Mountain would ever compare with finally having the necessary surgery or treatment to save a veteran’s life.
The VA has the opportunity to fix itself, if only the politicians would come together and do it right. The secretary has the chance to be the voice of veterans and ensure that their needs are recognized. He can remove self-serving employees and provide an environment that provides support and care. Anything less would just be a continuation of the status quo, which demonstrates the true intentions of the organization – to be devoted to the employees that work there, and not the patients that receive the care.
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