Politics

VA Secretary Promises Staff Accountability Bill Won’t Lead To ‘Large Number Of Firings’

PHOTO: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin pledged that the newly passed accountability legislation would not be used to fire large numbers of people in a message sent to all employees Tuesday.

Shulkin stated the accountability legislation signed by President Donald Trump won’t “take away due process, and will not lead to a large number of firings,” as he would never support such a move as secretary, according to an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Rather this is a tool that’s going to be used for a small number of people, who clearly have deviated from accepted practices and norms and have violated the public trust,” Shulkin stated.

“Up until now, we have too often failed to hold a small number of our employees accountable, for not living up to their duties to serve our Veterans, and at the same time protecting whistleblowers from retaliation,” Shulkin added. “This legislation will help us do just that. I am sure that, like me, you grew far too tired of hearing these stories in the media — as it tarnished the reputation of all of us who work at VA.”

Before President Donald Trump signed the accountability and whistleblower legislation last Friday, Shulkin cited TheDCNF’s coverage of senior interior designer Brittney Lowe, who returned to work at the Memphis, Tenn., VA seemingly without consequence after serving a 60-day jail sentence for driving under the influence. She’s been convicted three times of driving under the influence.

For their part, prominent whistleblowers at the department have applauded the accountability legislation, which includes backing for whistleblowers, but remain skeptical that the legislation will prevent retaliation. On the other hand, some are concerned that the accountability side of the legislation may be used to drive out whistleblowers even more aggressively than before.

“Whistleblowers (WB’s) around the nation are concerned that this legislation will make it easier to fire them while the real culprits management will continue their reign of terror on them,” Sean Higgins, whistleblower at the Memphis VA, told TheDCNF. “POTUS has not reached out to WB’s in the way we had hoped to hear our plight. The VA management continues its corrupt ways, while no one is held accountable except WB’s. Our concern is that management be held accountable and the reprisal and retaliation stops.”

Higgins was given a notice that he was being fired the day before Trump signed accountability legislation.

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