The Department of Veterans Affairs has started posting all major disciplinary actions taken against employees. They think this will send a message about the new culture in the agency. Something like this has never occurred before in the federal government.
The online posts display all terminations, demotions, and suspensions of more than 14 days of VA employees since January 20, 2017, when Trump took office. It does not include names; however, it does include employees’ position, specific adverse action, date it took effect, and region of work. The VA plans to update the list weekly and post it on the website for the VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
“Under the administration, the VA is committed to becoming the most transparent organization in the government,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said. “Together with the accountability bill the president signed into law recently, this additional step will continue to shine a light on the actions we’re taking to reform the culture at the VA.” He also said veterans and taxpayers have a right to know what the department is doing to hold their employees accountable.
The first post shows actions dated from January 20 to July 3. It shows 743 disciplinary cases. Of those, 526 were removals, putting the VA on pace to fire 1,169 employees during Trump’s first year in office. In comparison, the VA fired 2,575 workers in FY2016 for discipline or performance issues, according to OPM.
In addition to posting adverse action information, Shulkin announced he is requiring approval by a senior official of any monetary settlement with an employee over the amount of $5,000. He said, “taxpayers need to know we will engage in good faith settlement negotiations, where required by third parties, but will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged or when settlement is otherwise in veterans’ and taxpayers’ best interests, and not as a matter of ordinary business. We’re changing to a culture of accountability at the VA, and this is an important step in that direction.”
The president of the American Federal of Government Employees, J. David Cox, said the posting was just an “intimidation tactic”.
“If the VA and the administration were serious about transparency and cutting down on the backlogs at the agency, then they should publish every single one of the 49,000 vacancies that currently exist,” Cox said. “Hiring—not firing—is the biggest issue facing the VA since the waitlist backlogs were first brought to light three years ago, and until they take a serious approach to fully staffing the agency, veterans will suffer.”