Phoenix VA executive Lance Robinson recently said he wants to be fired or put back to work, and it looks like he’ll get his wish.
After remaining on administrative leave for almost two years because of close proximity to the manipulated waitlist scandal, the Department of Veterans Affairs decided to keep Robinson on the job, a VA spokeswoman told reporters Friday. Robinson will start working at the agency again this coming week as a strategic planner at VISN 18, which is the VA’s southwest regional office.
This office is responsible for the Phoenix VA.
Robinson isn’t the only Phoenix executive to return to work after initially receiving a suspension in May 2014. Brad Curry, who formerly served as chief of Health Administration Services, will restart as a health systems specialist. The two were reportedly involved in the Phoenix scandal, in which employees manipulated appointment wait times to make it appear as though patients were seeing doctors. This was not the case, and veterans died while waiting for care.
That the two have languished on administrative leave for 19 months has become a major point of contention in Congress, with VA officials receiving the brunt of criticism. When Undersecretary David Shulkin appeared before Congress, he was lambasted for not having good answers as to why the two were still on administrative leave. Shulkin’s justification was that the VA was blocked from completing internal investigations because the U.S. Attorney’s Office got involved, but following Shulkin’s testimony, Robinson’s lawyer, Julia Perkins, quickly moved to correct the record.
Perkins said that federal prosecutors declined to move forward with a case countless months ago, which in effect takes away the department’s excuse. She added that the real reason for Robinson languishing on administrative leave is because the department can’t find any kind of justification to fire him.
Reinstatement, however, has not been well-received by one of the country’s most prominent veterans’ advocacy groups.
“Once again, the VA has shown that it does not take accountability, or Congress, seriously,” Dan Caldwell, legislative director at Concerned Veterans for America, said in a statement. “By allowing Robinson and Curry to return to work despite their intimate involvement in the wait list scandal that likely cost dozens of veterans their lives — and Robinson’s documented retaliation against whistleblowers — VA leaders are letting the American people know that their priority is protecting corrupt government bureaucrats instead of seeking to better serve our veterans.”
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