VA secretary says agency ‘clearly broken,’ urges action by Congress

VA secretary says agency ‘clearly broken,’ urges action by Congress, Washington TimesS.A. Miller, May 31, 2017

In this photo taken May 11, 2017, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. Shulkin is warning the VA is “still in critical condition” despite efforts to reduce wait times for medical appointments and expand care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday that the agency is “still in critical condition” with patients waiting too long for services and a bureaucracy unable to fire poorly performing employees.

Mr. Shulkin, the only holdover from the Obama administration in President Trump’s Cabinet, urged Congress to give the agency more power to discipline employees and expand the Veterans Choice program that allows vets to get treatment from private-sector doctors and hospitals.

Current rules prevent the VA from suspending or firing employees in a timely manner, including a recent case where it took more than a month to fire a psychiatrist caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.

“Our accountability process are clearly broken,” said Mr. Shulkin, a physician.

He said that despite limitation in the law, the VA has moved to purge executives and others for poor performance and mismanagement.

The agency recently fired the medical director and other executives in the D.C. facility and the medical director and three other executive in the Shreveport, Louisiana, facility.

A pattern of negligent and mistreatment at VA hospitals came to light in 2014. A report by CNN found that at least 40 veterans died while on long waiting lists for care at a facility in Phoenix.

More problems emerged at facilities across the country, including secret waiting lists that were kept hidden by executives in order to collect bonus pay.

The Veterans Choice Program was created in response. The program, however, was opposed by Democrats who warned it was an attempt to privatize the VA.

Mr. Trump last month signed into law a bill that extended the program.

Mr. Shulkin also credited the president with taking executive action to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which reports directly to the secretary.

“But that isn’t enough,” Mr. Shulkin said. “We need new accountability legislation and we need that now.”

The House passed a bill to make it easier to fire bad VA employees. The Senate has yet to act.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bureauracy, Trump administration, Trump agenda, U.S. Congress, Veterans Administration

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