The upcoming employee accountability and whistleblower protection office at the Department of Veterans Affairs will cost a substantial amount, VA Secretary David Shulkin told reporters Wednesday.
Shulkin explained in a call with reporters Wednesday evening that the executive order President Donald Trump will sign Thursday establishes an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection with an executive in charge that reports directly to Shulkin.
The point of the office is to identify any barriers that might exist to removing bad employees from the VA.
And it won’t come cheap.
“There will be an additional cost to this,” Shulkin said. “This is an important responsibility that we have to make sure we protect those employees who come forward and tell us about issues, and we don’t want retaliation. Part of the president’s executive order is requiring us to take a look at what resources we already currently have dedicated to these types of activities and make sure that we’re not duplicating our resources and making sure that when we implement an office like this it’s done in the most efficient way.”
Shulkin didn’t have a ballpark figure available for the cost of the office, but noted that it would not be inexpensive.
“A department the size we have — these are not small amounts. This is going to be a substantial commitment,” Shulkin said.
“As you know, accountability is an important issue to us at VA and something we’re focusing on to make sure we have employees who work and are committed to the mission of serving our veterans,” Shulkin said. “And when we find employees that have deviated from those values, we want to make sure we can move them outside VA and not having them working at VA.”
This new office is distinct from the Office of Accountability Review, which was established in 2014 to review the performance of senior executives. The new office has under its purview accountability for all employees within the department.
Still, Shulkin emphasized that the office on its own is not sufficient to bring accountability to the department and that the office can only identify any internal barriers that might exist which keep bad employees in their positions.
Accountability legislation, he noted, is definitely needed, and he’s recently endorsed legislation moving through Congress to give him authority to fire bad employees.
“The House has passed a bill already on accountability,” Shulkin said during the call. “The Senate is working hard to do the same.”
“We need them to come to an agreement.”
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