Published: Sun, April 30, 2017
Markets | By Lucia Cruz

What others say: Promise to veterans must not be broken

What others say: Promise to veterans must not be broken

President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign an executive order on improving accountability and whistleblower protection at 4:45 PM ET today. Why those failures occurred and whether anyone will be held accountable ought to be addressed as the inspector general's office finishes its work and VA officials and Congress conduct their own reviews.

Mr. Trump will visit the VA headquarters near the White House to create the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, which will be aimed at helping VA Secretary David Shulkin to discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties, a White House official confirmed.

"I think what this is doing is it's elevating the office directly under me so that this is a direct report to the secretary". He says the office will help identify "barriers" that make it hard to fire or reassign employees who are no longer considered fit to work there and serve veterans.

"This executive order makes it clear that we will never ever tolerate substandard care to our great veterans", Trump stated on Thursday.

The new office will also investigate reports of retaliation against VA employees who expose illegal or unethical conduct, Shulkin said.

"Secretary Shulkin's hands will be tied until Congress passes strong accountability legislation", said Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America.

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"He's asking through his executive order for VA to do everything that it can internally", Shulkin said Wednesday at a White House briefing.

In 2014, as many as 40 veterans died as they spent months waiting for appointments at the VA medical center in Phoenix. "We're actually proactively reaching out to those veterans at highest risk of suicide", he said. He also quickly determined that senior VA officials had always been aware of some of the problems and so could not be trusted to fix them. "In this case, an investigation did go on and appropriate disciplinary action was rendered", Shulkin said.

Trump and the VA director praised the signing as a step toward increasing accountability in the agency.

The VFW and several of its peer organizations, as well as the VA and allies of the president, have also come out in favor of the VA Accountability First Act - legislation sponsored by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman and Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, which would ease "the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct".

Existing VA employees will staff the office, despite departmentwide staff shortages and the decision to leave thousands of positions unfilled. "We support efforts to increase accountability for bad employees at VA", one political staffer told T&P, "as long as the mechanisms continue to protect good ones".

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