President Donald Trump, who promised sweeping changes to the VA during his campaign, tweeted that he is making “tremendous progress” at the distressed agency. Earlier in the week, Trump signed an executive order creating an accountability office at the VA. The new office would protect whistleblowers from ridicule by fellow employees of the VA. Known as the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, Trump stated the new office would ensure that substandard care for veterans will never be acceptable.
The secretary of the VA, David Shulkin, said the new office would remove so-called “barriers” that prevent the agency from transferring or firing problematic employees. Many in the VA argue it is next to impossible to terminate “bad managers’ because of the long grievance process required by union rules. President Trump also signed a bill extending a program under the VA allowing some veterans to seek medical care outside of the department’s network. IN 2014, several veterans died as they waited for care at the Phoenix VA Medical Center.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the VA will not hire new employees to staff the new accountability office. Instead, existing employees will transfer into the new department despite an agency-wide shortage of employees. Shulkin said he did not have specific dollar amounts on how much the new department would cost, but he noted it will take a “substantial commitment.”