President Trump Creates Accountability Office at VA
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, May 16, 2017 12:51 PM
Efforts are underway at the VA to improve accountability, protect whistle-blowers, create a more integrated VA, and use professionals from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to provide care at underserved VA facilities.  

President Donald Trump has signed an order creating an office at the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve accountability and protect whistle-blowers.  Trump said the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection will make clear “that we will never, ever tolerate substandard care for our great veterans."

VA Secretary David Shulkin said the office will help identify “barriers" that make it difficult for the department to fire or reassign bad managers or employees.  Another function of the office will be to help shield whistle-blowers from retaliation.

“With the creation of this office, we are sending a strong message: those who fail our veterans will be held, for the first time, accountable," Trump said at the VA before signing an executive order to create the office. "And at the same time, we will reward and retain the many VA employees who do a fantastic job. The move follows Trump’s signing last week of a bill that extends a VA program that allowed some veterans to seek medical care outside of the department's troubled health system.

The House has already passed a bill to make it make it easier for the VA to fire, suspend or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct, but Senate continues to work on its version of the legislation. Shulkin said Trump's decision to create the office even before Congress sends him a bill speaks to his commitment to accountability at the VA.

The VA said it will have an executive director for the accountability office by mid-June. The director will help identify ways the VA secretary can discipline or terminate a VA manager or employee as well as reward top performers. The VA has often complained it can't discipline or remove employees due to a lengthy union grievance process.

Shulkin has said that his reform effort includes building a more "integrated" model of VA care that uses private doctors and doctors from other federal agencies.  Shulkin also announced additional steps  to improve VA care and to reduce waste, fraud and abuse at the department through a task force made up of private-sector and government groups.

The VA also plans to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services to allow medical professionals from the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to help provide care to veterans at VA facilities in underserved areas (See Legislation Would Include Chiropractors in the U.S. Public Health Service)