National Security

Sen. Jeff Flake’s New Bill Tells VA Felons, ‘You’re Fired’

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Luke Rosiak Investigative Reporter
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Sen. Jeff Flake introduced legislation Thursday requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fire any employee who has been convicted of a felony or had their medical license either suspended or revoked.

“If Congress wants to see improvements at the VA, it needs to put an end to the carousel of criminals passing through its doors,” Flake said announcing the Clean Up The VA Act. “It’s time to clean up the VA so we can focus on recruiting the best and brightest to care for our veterans.”

“This is something we should be able to get agreement on,” he said.

The Arizona Republican’s comment may have been a subtle request for moderation from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which aggressively fights to protect the jobs of all 368,000 VA employees.

A spokesman for AFGE did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment on whether the government employee union will oppose the bill.

Phoenix, Ariz., is the site of the infamous VA hospital where dozens of veterans died while waiting to be seen, even as employees faked patient wait times to make it appear they were being cared for more quickly.

The hospital’s former director, Sharon Helman, pleaded guilty to a felony as a result of that scandal and is currently asking to be reinstated. And Helman is not the only VA employee with a serious criminal record, as TheDCNF has repeatedly reported.

VA hired Braxton Linton fresh out of federal prison where he was serving a sentence for credit card theft and put him in charge of a major credit-card purchasing operation in another high profile example. Officials ignored repeated questioning by TheDCNF and Congress.

The department’s leadership may be regretting that strategy now. Flake referenced five bad employees on the government payroll in jobs that seemingly jeopardize patients or taxpayers, highlighting the blind indifference of VA managers to the problem. Flake linked all five of the examples to TheDCNF’s stories.

Flake’s five examples were as follows:

  • Another VA employee participated in an armed robbery and was convicted, but later given time off to serve her sentence. She then returned to work while on GPS-monitored probation. The VA later lied about her employment status to Congress.
  • A VA employee with a previous conviction for illegal firearm possession and known associate of drug traffickers was shot and killed with illegal gun in August.
  • The chief of staff at the Tomah VA Medical Center was on paid leave for nearly a year even though his medical license had been suspended.

“If they would do this themselves,” Flake said, “we wouldn’t have to pass this. They’re still acting like a massive bureaucracy rather than a healthcare provider that’s trying to compete.”

The bill requires background checks to determine if a doctor’s license has been suspended in any state. Multiple doctors wound up moving across the country to work for the VA after they were involved in scandals that limited their ability to practice in their old state, including one employee who wouldn’t stop showing his penis to people at work.
One of the most egregious instances of a VA employee using the state loophole involved a doctor hired as head of opiate safety in spite of his privileges being revoked in another state following the deaths of 35 of his patients; his old state finished the criminal investigation and charged him with manslaughter soon after he started his job at the VA.

In addition to barring future hiring for the specified class of persons, the bill would require the VA to “begin the process of terminating the employment of each individual” currently working for VA who is in violation of the bill immediately.

The felonies for which employees can be terminated include sex offenses, fraud, theft, violence, firearms, and kidnapping.

President-elect Donald Trump quips occasionally that the VA is a prime place to apply his motto, “you’re fired!” to bad employees who view the VA as easy money in an industry that would otherwise not hire them.

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