President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Thursday establishing an office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discipline or fire incompetent employees or managers.
The executive order, likely to be signed Thursday according to a source with direct knowledge, will create an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
The order “will help the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans. The Office will also identify barriers to the Secretary’s authority to put the well-being of our veterans first,” according to the text obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The office will also protect whistleblowers who find themselves targeted by management in the course of their disclosures.
“I smiled when I heard this was happening Thursday,” Brandon Coleman, a noted Phoenix VA whistleblower, told TheDCNF. “I applaud President Trump for not waiting to take action but instead continuing his push for accountability at the VA with this executive order.”
“I think we have a VA Secretary in Dr. David Shulkin that wants to bring transparency to the Department of Veterans Affairs and setting up a whistleblower division is a great way to bring whistleblowers to the table instead of trying to destroy our careers, as the VA has done time and time again over the past 3 years,” Coleman added. “Whistleblowers are the only ones who have continued to tell the truth at great risk to our professional careers within VA.”
Advocacy organization Concerned Veterans for America applauded the announcement but also emphasized that the office on its own without corresponding accountability legislation will not be terribly effective.
“We appreciate that President Trump is taking steps to fix the VA’s toxic culture, but the job will not be finished with just this executive order,” CVA police director Dan Caldwell said in a statement. “This new office will only be effective if it is coupled with strong accountability legislation, like the VA Accountability First Act, to speed up the termination process for bad employees. Identifying bad VA employees won’t do any good if you still can’t fire them.”
VA Secretary David Shulkin has endorsed existing accountability legislation, and although the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 has passed the House, similar legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
In one recent example, Shulkin urged Congress to move the legislation through to empower him to fire an employee who was discovered watching porn while taking care of a patient.
“We’re taking a hard stance that we want this employee removed, and we do not believe the current rules allow us to do that quickly enough,” he said recently on Fox News. “We need changes in the law, and I need the authority to remove these people immediately.”