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Monday, October 13, 2014

The VA Fires Senior Executives

Last week, the VA announced that they are firing 4 senior executives: the Deputy Chief Procurement Director in Washington, DC, and 3 directors of VA Healthcare facilities. These are the first dismissals announced after Congress passed a VA reform bill this summer that gave the Secretary of the VA the authority to fire senior executives more easily and quickly. 

The firings come after an intense investigation by the VA Inspector General that revealed quite a few wrongdoings, including extensive delays and wait times that contributed to veterans’ deaths, “neglect of duty,” appointment data manipulation, misconduct, and mishandling of VA contracts at VA facilities. 

The Inspector General’s report states that Susan Taylor, Deputy Chief Procurement Officer for the VA in Washington, DC, used her position and VA resources to benefit a contract firm that worked against the policies of the VA.  The report also stated that she interfered with the IG investigation.

Terry Wolfe, Director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System, is being fired for “misconduct unbecoming a senior executive.” He has been on paid leave since June after the VA discovered that the 2011-12 outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease that led to 6 deaths was caused by problems with the water treatment at the Pittsburgh facilities.

James Talton, Director of the Central Alabama VA Healthcare System, is being fired for neglect of duty. Reports show that patient records were falsified, veterans experienced long wait times for appointments, hundreds of x-rays went unread, and even that an employee helped a patient buy illegal drugs.

John Goldman, Director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, GA, is being fired for duplicating appointment lists to cover up long wait times. Interestingly, he announced his retirement 4 days before the VA announced that they were firing him.

According to the VA reform bill passed this summer, the fired individuals will have 7 days to file an appeal to the Merit System Protection Board, after which the Board will have 21 days to announce their final ruling on the appeals.

Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, expressed concern that by announcing the firings ahead of time, the VA “appears to be giving failing executives an opportunity to quit, retire, or find new jobs without consequence.”


News Flash:  The VA also announced this week that they are going to continue holding quarterly town hall meetings at local VA facilities. Veterans and their families are encouraged to attend and provide feedback on a wide variety of issues.  Check with your local VA facility for dates and times.

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