The VA Secretary Himself Is Now Calling for VA Accountability

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin full-throatedly endorsed legislation to reform the VA on Friday, after an employee watched pornography on the job, in view of a veteran, and could not be fired immediately under current law.

"I need the authority as secretary to remove these people immediately," Shulkin declared on "Fox & Friends" Sunday morning. He added that employees "who don't show up to work, who do cocaine, and who are watching porn at work, are gonna be fired, because I'm not gonna tolerate it."

Under current law, however, even the VA secretary cannot immediately dismiss a federal employee who is caught watching porn on the job, in front of a veteran. In a Friday press release, Shulkin reported that "an employee of the Michael DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston" was "caught watching pornography while with a patient." Staff were able to take appropriate precautions, but even Shulkin lacked the legal ability to remove the employee in question immediately.

"VA immediately removed the employee in question from patient care and placed the employee on administrative duties," the press release reported. But "due to current law, the deciding official cannot affect a final determination for 30 days from the date the proposal for removal was made."

"This is an example of why we need accountability legislation as soon as possible," Shulkin declared in the press release. "It's unacceptable that VA has to wait 30 days to act on a proposed removal."

Under current law, the VA must continue to pay employees who are in the process of being removed. Any worker gets an advanced notice period — at least 30 days from the date a worker's removal has been proposed — and during that time he or she will still be paid, unless there is evidence the employee committed a crime.

Even if an employee in the process of being fired has been assessed as a potential danger to veterans, he or she would be placed on administrative leave with pay.

This past month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1259, the "VA Accountability First Act of 2017," which would empower the VA secretary to fire bad employees without a waiting period. The press release praised Congress for making "employee accountability a priority."

"Current legislation in Congress reduces the amount of time we have to wait before taking action," Shulkin explained in the release.