The Department of Veterans Affairs seems unwilling to fire its employees, regardless of outlandish conduct. A new investigation has turned up instances in which employees had sex at work or slept in patient rooms only to receive mild reprimands.
This misconduct occurred in hospital facilities spread out among West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Three facilities, one in each region, disciplined, but did not fire, a total of 300 employees, according to a Freedom of Information Act request by NBC4 Washington.
In one case at the Martinsburg facility in West Virginia, employees actually had sex at the center. Another employee slept under a blanket in a patient room during work hours. Still another was placed under investigation for being high on cocaine.
One employee dealt heroin off facility grounds and was subsequently arrested. The VA allowed that employee to return to work. At a facility in Maryland, the VA reprimanded an employee for not treating a veteran who suffered a head injury at the medical center.
The VA issued a statement to NBC4 Washington, saying, “Where performance or conduct issues warrant removal, VA takes appropriate action to terminate employment.”
Employees being high on cocaine or having sex at work is, apparently, not serious enough to warrant removal.
Recently, the VA has taken fire for refusing to let go executives Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves for defrauding the government of over $400,000 in taxpayer funds. The VA has since refused to recover those funds, a move which legislators like GOP Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, think is a tacit endorsement of fraud. Miller recently introduced a bill to empower VA Secretary Robert McDonald to take back those funds. (RELATED: VA Refuses To Take Back Fraudulently-Obtained Bonuses, So This Rep Introduced A Bill To Do Just That)
Instead of firing the executives, the VA decided to demote the two to general employee status. That demotion attempt failed, as the VA did not deliver key evidence used in their decision process. (RELATED: OOPS: VA Accidentally Ruined Attempt To Demote Corrupt Executives Rubens And Graves)
Given VA’s inability to fire employees unless they blow the whistle on misconduct, Miller has focused his energy on forwarding the VA Accountability Act. This bill would allow the secretary to fire any employee at the department for poor performance or misconduct. But President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the legislation, saying that it is counterproductive and would make it difficult for the VA to attract top-tier talent. That line of reasoning is what prompted Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal to block a rush vote in the Senate to pass the bill.
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