President Trump continues to demonstrate that his campaign promises were not just empty threats. Since he took office, his administration is cracking down on the rampant corruption in the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) agency. According to transparency reports, more than 500 people have been fired and over 200 more were suspended or demoted since he’s taken office.
During his historic run for the presidency, Trump declared that he would clean up “the most incompetently run agency in the United States.” His statements were the result of serious infractions that have crippled the VA for decades.
In 2014, a major scandal erupted when it was discovered that officials had been altering documents to remove the truth about shocking wait times for veteran care and to garner huge bonuses. Some of the nation’s service members died waiting for treatment. The Obama administration fired four high-ranking officials as a result, but the action was meager. They were the first such terminations in years.
In addition, the system gave those dirt bags the opportunity for extortion. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) allowed many firings to be overturned. Threatening to relentlessly appeal the terminations and make unsupported charges of discrimination, during Obama’s reign, the agency paid more than $5 million in settlements just to keep people from clogging the system. The reward for punishment was lucrative until Trump appeared on the scene.
Obama’s Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Bob McDonald was a huge part of the problem. Under his watch, he bragged about the removal of John Goldman, who admitted to keeping false records about wait times. However, Goldman was already set to retire at the time.
The problems are so rampant that earlier this year, congressional auditors found massive losses of controlled substances. Government data records prove that during Obama’s terms drug losses or theft increased exponentially, going from 272 in 2009 to a record 2,926 instances in 2015.
In February, three VA employees at the Little Rock, Arkansas, VA hospital were charged with conspiring to steal prescription medications including opioids. Apparently, a pharmacy technician used his VA access to a medical supplier’s web portal to order and divert 4,000 oxycodone pills, 3,300 hydrocodone pills and other drugs. The total amount of the theft was $77,700, but the drugs had a street value of $160,000.
McDonald had so little grasp of the situation that he announced 140,000 firings in August 2016. Because that would have entailed the removal of nearly half the workforce, the statement blatantly illuminated how ignorant he was. Fortunately, he’s gone.
McDonald said, “you can’t fire your way to excellence” while blaming “negative news articles” for the unethical culture, rather than the individuals responsible for the misconduct. It’s clear that misuse, corruption, and fraud have run rampant in the VA during the last ten years.
When President Trump signed the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in June, the move made it much easier to fire habitual wrongdoers. Disciplinary actions have been coming swiftly since then. Among the employees removed and reprimanded, many former sex offenders and felons’ employment has been terminated.
VA Secretary David Shulkin has been begging for changes for years. He urged congress for the new legislation that would limit the MSPB’s power, especially in relation to high-ranking officials. The new legislation allows Shulkin to act as the judge, jury, and prosecutor for employee misconduct. Although the 500 plus firings doesn’t include names, the change is a step in the right direction.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin explained before the law was enacted. However, those type of activities are being brought to a halt and heads are rolling now.
In addition to low-level housekeepers, and food service workers, a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, a public affairs specialist, and a chief of surgery were among the disciplined workers.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has been praising the new laws which make it harder for bureaucrats and unions to protect criminals within the VA system.
This will make it much easier to limit outside influences who seek to exploit American taxpayers at the expense of veteran lives. Already, it’s working and Trump is keeping yet another campaign promise.