New VA office to focus on whistleblowers, accountability
- By Aisha Chowdhry
- Apr 27, 2017
President Donald Trump visited Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters on April 27 to sign an executive order setting up a new office to crack down on problem employees and protect those who report waste, fraud and abuse.
The VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection is to be established within 45 days. It is tasked with using "all available authorities to discipline or terminate any VA manager or employee who has violated the public's trust and failed to carry out his or her duties on behalf of veterans," the executive order states. The mission also includes working "to ensure swift and effective resolution of veterans' complaints of wrongdoing at the VA;" protecting employees "who lawfully disclose wrongdoing from retaliation;" and finding ways to "recruit, reward, and retain high-performing employees."
The new office "will report directly to me as secretary, so that we can identify barriers that are preventing us from moving employees and people we have identified that should no longer be working at the VA," Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told reporters at a White House press briefing on April 26.
At the signing, President Trump thanked America's veterans for shedding "blood, sweat and tears" for the nation, according to the press pool report. "We're not going to let 'em down," he said.
The executive order offers a head start on the House-passed Accountability First Act of 2017, which the Trump administration supports. That bill sets up an expedited process to remove employees for poor performance or misconduct. It is strongly opposed by federal employee unions, and it's not clear if it could pass the Senate in its current form.
Shulkin is still looking for "legislative help," he said, urging movement on a Senate version of the Accountability First bill.
Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.