On Friday, the department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a list of all the employees who had been fired and demoted since President Donald Trump took office.
“Under this administration, VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in government,” declared VA Secretary David Shulkin in a statement. “Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what we’re doing to hold our employees accountable and make our personnel actions transparent.”
“Posting this information online for all to see, and updating it weekly, will do just that,” Shulkin concluded.
According to the report, dated July 3, the VA has removed 526 employees since Trump’s inauguration. The agency has demoted another 27 employees and temporarily suspended 194 employees for longer than two weeks. The list does not include employee names, but it does show their positions and locations.
The published list came less than one month after Trump signed a VA reform bill which empowers Shulkin to fire bad employees on a faster timetable. Following at least 17 major scandals in the past three years, this was a major victory for taxpayers and veterans alike. Even when Trump signed the bill, he promised that “we’re just getting started.”
“Taxpayers deserve to know how government officials are putting veterans’ lives at risk, committing crimes, or engaging in misconduct,” Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) said in a statement on the list. “On top of the new accountability legislation, this document of bad employee actions sets a serious tone about how Shulkin intends to use his new authority.”
Caldwell concluded by thanking Shulkin for releasing the information. “We applaud the Secretary for his continued dedication toward cleaning up the toxic VA culture, and veterans look forward to seeing results.”
Under President Barack Obama, previous VA Secretary Robert McDonald — who became infamous for comparing VA wait lists to wait times at Disney theme parks — took fire for misrepresenting the number of VA employees he fired. While he claimed to have gotten rid of 900 employees, PolitiFact revealed that most of these (487) were “probationary” employees — those fired during or right after their one-year probationary period.
This meant that McDonald could skirt around the onerous rules required to terminate bad employees, but also that about half of the people McDonald fired were only starting to work when the original scandal came to light.
While perhaps the most infamous scandal took place in 2014, when news broke that veterans were placed on secret waiting lists at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Ariz., other recent scandals have confirmed the need for VA reform.
In April, a VA employee was caught watching porn on the job, and Shulkin was not able to fire him immediately. Recent reports revealed that the Houston VA falsified wait times, that an Oklahoma veteran died with maggots in his wound, and that VA employees worked over 1 million hours for unions on the taxpayers’ dime.
One of the most egregious cases is that of Sharon Helman, former director of the VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. and a convicted felon. After being fired in 2014, Helman sued to get her job back, and in May a federal court ruled her firing unconstitutional.
The list of fired employees is an important step toward full VA reform, holding bad actors accountable. Expect more in the future.