McCain To VA Secretary: Why Are Suspended Phoenix VA Execs Returning To Work?

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Republican Sen. John McCain sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald Wednesday demanding to know why he allowed Phoenix VA executives to return to work after they languished on administrative leave for almost two years.

Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin argued in December the reason VA executives Lance Robinson and Brad Curry were suspended for so long without a decision was because of ongoing internal investigations. Robinson and Curry were originally suspended following the wait list manipulation scandal that emerged from the Phoenix VA in 2014.

Yet Robinson’s lawyer from Shaw Bransford & Roth noted that the Department of Justice already announced April 22, 2015 it would not prosecute him, throwing considerable doubt on the veracity of the department’s testimony.

This point was not lost on McCain.

“During the recent Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on health care and accountability at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, senior VA officials repeatedly gave inaccurate testimony to my questions on why no actions have been taken against these officials,” McCain wrote in his letter to McDonald.

Following the attorney’s press release, the VA said it would allow both Robinson and Curry to return to work, albeit in different positions. Robinson will work as a strategic planner at VA’s southwest regional office, and Curry will serve as a health systems specialist.  Previously, Robinson worked as associate director at the Phoenix VA and Curry worked as chief of health administration services.

The fact that the VA has both refused to provide an explanation why it kept Robinson and Curry suspended for so long without action and then subsequently reinstated the two is why McCain penned the Wednesday letter.

“I continue to be extremely disappointed by the VA’s refusal to hold senior executives accountable for manipulating veterans’ wait-times in order to get bigger bonuses,” McCain said in a statement. “By allowing these individuals to return to work, the VA has clearly demonstrated that these cases will drag on even longer. Just last week, a senior VA official admitted that he provided inaccurate and incomplete answers under oath multiple times to me during a Senate Veterans Affairs field hearing on these issues.”

McCain, not buying the reasoning provided by Shulkin in December, asked McDonald to provide a full and accurate explanation for why Robinson and Curry stayed on administrative leave for 19 months without action.

“Please provide my office with a detailed explanation of these delays and timely and accurate update on the status of all current or former Phoenix VA Health Care System officials currently suspended or on paid leave awaiting an administrative decision or other personnel action,” McCain added.

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