Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) June 8, 2017 – President Trump signed an executive order to create a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The office will be dedicated to shielding whistleblowers from retaliation and holding VA employees accountable for misconduct.
Trump promised that the office will protect employees who report problems at the VA. He emphasized that, “we will never, ever tolerate substandard care for our great veterans.” Along with investigating reports of retaliation against whistleblowing employees, the new office will look into allegations of misconduct at the VA. It will also aim to determine systemic issues that in the past prevented department leaders from taking disciplinary action against problem workers, including firing or reassigning them.
“Improving accountability is something that the VA has talked about for quite some time, but without taking any real concrete action,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “The new office is a positive step in the right direction as VA employees should be able to report illegal conduct without fear of retaliation. However, reassigning existing department employees to positions at the office may put pressure on an already understaffed VA.”
The new office will report directly to VA Secretary David Shulkin. Employees found to have deviated from the department’s mission of serving veterans will be removed from the VA. Instead of hiring new workers, the VA plans to transfer existing staff to fill positions at the office. This is despite a department-wide employee shortage.
Shulkin did not say how much the office would cost but admitted a “substantial commitment” will be necessary. The VA already has an Office of Accountability Review that focuses on the actions of senior department leadership. However, the new office will be different from the existing one as it will monitor the conduct of all VA employees.
Besides signing the executive order, Trump joined veterans organizations in urging the Senate to approve a pending accountability measure. The bill would enable the VA to easily take disciplinary action against employees accused of misconduct. Shulkin said that in order to be able to get problem employees and leadership to leave the VA, he is going to “need legislative help as well.”
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