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Accountability Finally Arrives at the VA

Monday June 26th, 2017   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:33am PDT   •  

30365766 - accountability word under a magnifying glass looking for someone to take responsibility, credit or blame Last Friday, President Trump signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law, which promises to finally make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs senior leadership to remove supervisors and employees who have engaged in misconduct from their jobs, while also better protecting the employees who make misconduct at the VA known to the public.

The Associated Press‘ Darlene Superville and Jonathan Lemire report on the President’s comments at the signing ceremony:

“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”

Trump repeatedly promised during the election campaign to dismiss VA workers “who let our veterans down,” and he cast Friday’s bill signing as fulfillment of that promise.

“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”

What made the event more remarkable was a bit of play-acting between President Trump and VA secretary David Shulkin. The Washington Post covered that angle of the event depicting what would happen if the VA secretary failed to uphold the new law by allowing VA employees who have engaged in misconduct to remain on its payroll.

President Trump on Friday pantomimed killing off his veterans affairs secretary should he fail to successfully implement new reforms at the long-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs.

At a ceremony in the East Room of the White House where he signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, Trump said, “I have no doubt it will be properly implemented.”

Turning to VA Secretary David Shulkin, who stood on stage to Trump’s right, the president said, “Right, David?”

“Absolutely,” Shulkin replied.

Smiling, Trump responded, “Better be, David, or …” He then made a pistol with his right hand, aimed it at Shulkin and mouthed his signature words: “You’re fired!”

The audience of administration officials, lawmakers and veterans and their families laughed at the president’s joke.

The seemingly never-ending series of scandals emanating from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the feckless actions of former President Obama in addressing them are major reasons why the VA Accountability Act passed the U.S. Congress with a strong bipartisan majority. We can only hope that the passage of the law to impose greater accountability at the VA is finally the beginning of the end of the department’s ongoing scandals.

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June 2017