President Donald Trump visited the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., April 27 to sign an executive order authorizing the formation of an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
Trump said that the new office would not only investigate wrongdoing, but also enable Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin to hold VA employees accountable for misconduct.
“Accountability is an important issue to us at VA and something that we’re focusing on to make sure that we have employees who work and are committed to the mission of serving our veterans," Shulkin said in a public statement. "And when we find employees that have deviated from these values, we want to make sure that we can move them outside of VA and not have them working at VA."
Verna Jones, executive director of The American Legion's Washington Office, said Trump's executive order is a step in the right direction. She'd like to see Congress codify this in an enduring manner by drafting legislation to this effect.
“The American Legion applauds this effort at increased transparency and accountability,” Jones said. “The establishment of this office is consistent with Resolution 3, which was approved last year at our national convention in Cincinnati.”
The resolution calls for Congress to enact legislation that provides the VA secretary an authority to either remove an individual from the VA department for wrongdoing, or transfer the individual to a general schedule position without increased monetary benefit.
The House of Representatives has already passed a bill to enable the VA secretary to fire, reassign or suspend poorly performing employees. The Senate also has similar legislation under consideration.
“Secretary Shulkin has carried out a very thorough review of the VA to uncover all of the problems and challenges that we inherited, of which there were so many,” Trump said during a press conference after he signed the executive order. “Based on those findings, we’re putting plans in place to fix those problems and give our veterans the health care they need and the health care they deserve. Much work lies ahead, but we will not rest until this job is totally done.”
Earlier last month, Shulkin relieved the Washington DC VA Medical Center's director following the release of an inspector general report, which stated that veterans receiving care at the facility were exposed to “unnecessary risks” due to unsanitary conditions and inadequate supplies.
“This is exactly the type of tool Secretary Shulkin needs to hold people accountable and, more importantly, encourage the right kinds of behavior," Jones said.
The American Legion will hold a town hall meeting on May 3 inside the DC VA hospital auditorium. Local veterans are encouraged to attend and share their experiences/concerns at the meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m., located at 50 Irving Street NW.