Allen B. West

VA Secretary lied about people being fired for wait time scandal

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I continue to be amazed at what is happening at the Veterans Administration. However, it’s typical of the pretense of doing something when actually, nothing is being done.

Recently we reported about the actions of new Secretary McDonald and his out-of-line response to Rep. Coffman (R-Colo). And we detailed the budget cuts to the Choice Act program, which has only been only in existence for six months. I’ve just gotta ask, what do you think would happen if someone tried to cut food stamps or EBT cards? And how long have those programs been around?

So we were told by President Obama that after this new secretary assumed the reins, we’d get to the bottom of the situation in the VA. Well, once again, it seem those were just empty words.

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On “Meet The Press” recently, Secretary McDonald stated, “Nine hundred people have been fired since I became secretary. We’ve got 60 people that we fired who have manipulated wait times.”

Except that’s not the truth.

As reported by the Washington Post, “Two days after McDonald took office, Congress passed legislation allowing more veterans to seek private care outside the VA system and authorizing McDonald to expedite disciplinary actions for senior executives.”

“It was notoriously difficult to fire senior executives at the VA — which terminated executives at one-fourth the firing rate for all federal agencies from 2008 to 2013, according to CNN – and the goal was to allow the VA chief to replace bad actors quickly, especially ones connected to the scandal.”

“In his “Meet the Press” interview, McDonald also said 100 senior leaders are under investigation by the inspector general and the Department of Justice. Yet McDonald is incorrect in saying that 60 employees who manipulated wait times were fired. Disciplinary actions for 75 employees have been proposed since June 3, 2014, according to the VA’s most recent weekly briefing to the House and Senate committees on veterans affairs.”

“Of the 75 employees, only eight employees have actually been removed, as of Feb. 13, 2015. Twenty-three cases were pending. Five employees resigned before a decision was made on their case. Others were demoted, were on probationary termination, had some other disciplinary action, or had no action taken at all. McDonald used his new personnel authority to propose removals of five executives — in Phoenix, Georgia, central Alabama, Pittsburgh and the VA central area office in Washington. Two retired before they could be removed, and three were actually fired. But of those three terminations, only one was officially related to the VA scandal — James Talton, director of Central Alabama’s VA.”

So there you have it, common core math when it comes to explaining firings at the VA. Now, what will happen to Mr. McDonald? Better yet, how is it that we continue to have people who blatantly lie to the American people, with no consequences? Why was McDonald given this position if he’s not actually doing what was expected — or is he actually doing what he was told?

We cannot continue to turn such a blind eye on the plight of our veterans. And to think that a program alive for ony six months was cut because McDonald declared it underutilized. Here is a graduate from West Point where the motto is “Duty, Honor, County.” And lying isn’t tolerated. McDonald arrogantly stated to Rep. Coffman that he’d run a large company. Sir, who cares if you did so with a lack of integrity?

Remember Sharon Helman, whose Phoenix VA hospital was at the center of the scandal and who apparently knew about the data-manipulation problems for at least two years? She was placed on administrative leave for seven months, and eventually fired for inappropriately accepting gifts.

“Regarding the 60 figure, it is most accurate to say that ‘VA has proposed disciplinary action related to data manipulation or patient care against more than 60 employees nationwide.’ This takes into account the full range of accountability actions including admonishments, demotions, reprimands, and termination,” wrote VA spokesman James Hutton to The Fact Checker.”

Our veterans deserve better and I pray the day will come when the correct emphasis is placed on leadership at the VA.

In the end, the Washington Post Fact Checker says “Recommending people to receive a letter about their wrongdoing is not the same thing as being fired. Recommending people to be fired is not the same thing as being fired. Employees are not fired unless they have been removed from their jobs. Whether resigning under pressure should be counted as being “held accountable” or being fired — well, McDonald may know better about that himself.”

Veterans Administration Secretary McDonald was awarded four Pinocchio’s for his statement. Just utterly sad.

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