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Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make it easier for managers at the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs to fire the employees and supervisors at the VA who have engaged in misconduct by a vote of 310 to 116.
The House voted 310-116 Wednesday to arm the Department of Veterans Affairs, exclusively among federal departments, with tougher employee “accountability” tools to punish misconduct and better protect whistleblowers.
It’s the latest political fallout from the patient wait time scandal of 2014 and multiple smaller investigations into misbehaving VA supervisors and staff that have become the primary focus of the House Veterans Affairs Committee under chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) who is to retire January.
The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (HR 5620), introduced by Miller in July, would provide new authorities for VA to withhold financial incentives or to demote or fire employees faster than current federal employee protection law allows.
Such a bill is needed because of a combination of civil service rules and government union protections that make it extraordinarily difficult to hold federal government employees who have engaged in on-the-job misconduct accountable for their actions by firing them.
In fact, the situation has become so bad that VA officials have turned to financial incentives to entice employees who have engaged in misconduct into leaving their jobs. Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller News Foundation reports on the VA’s golden parachute plan for its badly behaving bureaucrats.
Union protections and civil service rules prevent many government agencies from outright firing employees, so in the case of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they are paying 150 employees millions of dollars to quit.
Leigh Bradley, the VA’s top lawyer, claimed that “many” times the settlements didn’t mean money, and only “once in a while” do they involve agreeing to hide the misconduct from future employers. That stands in stark contrast to the current data that Bradley herself provided, which shows that 72 percent of settlements were indeed monetary and that 96 percent required the agency to give the employee a “clean record.”
“We don’t use [clean record agreements] regularly as has been depicted,” she said without explaining how 96 percent is not regularly.
The collective payments to terminated employees totaled $5 million, mostly being paid to employees facing misconduct charges; the money came from budgets that would otherwise be used to help veterans.
$5 million equally divided by 150 employees works out to an average incentive of $33,333 per badly behaving employee to leave the VA’s payroll. At the same time, the VA is frequently agreeing to cover up the misconduct that led to the generous severance package being paid to the departing employees in the first place.
That’s how U.S. taxpayer bucks are being used to pass the buck.