VA Seeks To Fire Four Senior Executives Over Wait Time Scandals
The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun the process of firing four senior executives over issues related to long waits and manipulated waiting lists at VA health centers, the AP/New York Times reports (AP/New York Times, 10/6).
In August, President Obama signed a $16.3 billion bill (HR 3230) to overhaul VA and improve veterans' access to care following reports of long wait times at several VA health care facilities. Among other provisions, the measure gave the VA secretary more power to fire top-level employees based on their performance (California Healthline, 8/8). Under the new law, once the VA secretary has made a termination decision, the employee has a week to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which then has three weeks to issue a decision on whether to overturn the termination (Hicks, "Federal Eye," Washington Post, 10/6).
Details of Firing Decisions
VA announced that it has begun taking steps to fire:
- John Goldman, director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Ga., whose employees had admitted to falsifying wait time records. Goldman already announced he was stepping down from his position;
- James Talton, director of the Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System, for neglect of duty (AP/New York Times, 10/6). Talton had been placed on administrative leave in August amid long wait times and other issues, including an employee with the system's drug misuse treatment program allegedly helping a patient purchase narcotics. In addition, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel had found that one of the system's physicians falsified more than 1,200 VA patient records;
- Susan Taylor, deputy chief procurement officer with the Veterans Health Administration, whom a VA Office of Inspector General report found helped steer a VA contract to a firm, FedBid, and interfered with an investigation into the issue ("Federal Eye," Washington Post, 10/6); and
- Terry Gerigk Wolf, director of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, for "conduct unbecoming a senior executive." Wolf has been on paid leave from her job since a VA review of an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease that resulted in at least six deaths and 16 patient illnesses. The bacterial disease outbreak was found to have resulted from water treatment issues at the system's hospitals (AP/New York Times, 10/6).
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said, "There should be no doubt that when we discover evidence of wrongdoing, we will hold employees accountable" (Kesling, Wall Street Journal, 10/6).
House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) urged VA to make sure that employees found to be guilty of wrongdoing do not retire with federal benefits or receive other government jobs outside VA. He said, "The only way the department can regain the trust of veterans and taxpayers is if VA employees who preside over malfeasance and mismanagement are held accountable, and it's up to department leaders to make sure that happens." Miller added, "If any current laws or regulations are impeding the department's ability to swiftly hold employees accountable, VA leaders must work with Congress so those laws and regulations can be changed" ("Federal Eye," Washington Post, 10/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.