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 Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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