VA Chief Says He Does Fire Poor Performers -- Thousands of Them

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 15, 2014. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki pauses while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 15, 2014. Cliff Owen/AP

The Veterans Affairs Department has forced out more than 6,000 employees over the last two years, agency Secretary Eric Shinseki told Congress on Thursday.

Lawmakers on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee questioned the department’s accountability amid reports of long waits and preventable deaths at the agency’s medical facilities, challenging the agency to fire more poorly performing employees.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., pointed to reports that VA employees were “gaming the system” to hide the backlog in patient care, and asked what was being done about it. Shinseki said VA has forced out -- either through transfers, terminations or involuntary retirements -- 3,000 workers in each of the last two years, some of whom were senior executives.

Data from the Office of Personnel Management show about 4,300 VA employees were removed or terminated from federal service for disciplinary reasons, but that figure does not include forced transfers or retirements. House Speaker John Boehner recently threw his weight behind a bill to give Shinseki enhanced authority to fire senior executives.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said allowing employees to transfer to different parts of government or even to different agencies was not a sufficient punishment.

“If they’re cheating, they’re not trustworthy,” he said. “If you transfer them to another part of government you just perpetuate what they have done.”

Begich added: “Sometimes you got to have some heads roll in order to get the system to shape up,” and demanded an answer from Shinseki regarding whether he would fire anyone in the future for cooking the books.

The secretary, however, was reluctant to give a definitive answer.

“There’s a process here senator,” Shinseki said. “Let me not get out ahead of it.” Generally speaking, Shinseki said he and Begich were “not in disagreement.”

Many lawmakers have called for Shinseki himself to step down, and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., asked the secretary -- himself a veteran -- why he has not resigned.

“I came here to make things better for veterans,” Shinseki said. “That was my appointment by the president. Every day I start out with the intent, in fact, to provide as much care and benefits to those I went to war with.” 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.