Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials said Tuesday it’s finally entering a battle to remove three top officials from the Phoenix VA.
The three officials in question are: Lance Robinson, the facility’s associate director, Brad Curry, chief of health administration service, and Dr. Darren Deering, chief of staff.
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson testified in early December the department was “wrapping up” cases against the administrators, in response as to why they had been allowed to collect pay for over a year and a half while on administrative leave.
The proposed removal actions come just over three months since Gibson’s testimony.
“It is vitally important to Veterans in Phoenix and across the nation to understand that we will take appropriate accountability action as warranted by the evidence,” VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement. “Frankly, I am disappointed that it took as long as it did for proposed actions to be made but I am satisfied that we carefully reviewed a massive amount of evidence to ensure the accountability actions are supported.”
A group known as the Concerned Employees of the Phoenix VA wrote a letter in reaction to Gibson’s announcement. For these employees, it’s important to remember the administrators have not yet been fired. So far, the only action is a proposed removal. The difference between the two, given the VA’s seeming inability to get rid of corrupt executives, is noteworthy.
The administrative process of investigation and removal can last for over 700 days.
Elsewhere in the VA system, Gibson has refused to hold officials accountable for their actions. When an inspector general report revealed that high-level officials Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves bullied subordinates out of their positions so they themselves could fill the jobs and accept the same salary with lower responsibility, Gibson said this was nothing more than an “error in judgment.”
The department made no attempt to seek a return of the $400,000 in relocation expenses received by Rubens and Graves.
With this track record in mind, Concerned Employees think the proposed removal of three administrators at Phoenix is “the VA’s national office attempting to give veterans, Congress and the media just enough so they can say, “There is nothing else to see here, please move on.”
“Gibson has thrown these three administrators to the wolves in the hope that the problems nationally will just go away,” the group wrote.
Phoenix has functioned as the canary in the coal mine for the nationwide scandal. Back in 2014, news broke to Congress and media outlets that dozens of veterans had died on secret wait lists, while employees manipulated schedules to make it appear as though wait times were normal.
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