President Trump Creates New VA Office to Protect Whistleblowers

VP Pence tweeted: Thanks to @POTUS' leadership, @DeptVetAffairs is being fixed. Today, he took a crucial step to ensure our veterans receive world-class care.

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Washington, DC – The race for the first 100 days is resembling a 100 meters dash by the White House, which it looks set to win with a long list of achievements. Today (April 27), President Donald Trump signed another Executive Order launching an employee accountability and whistleblower protection office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

President Trump was accompanied to the VA offices by Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, as well as Kellyanne Conway.

Before signing the whistleblower/accountability executive action in the crowded, sauna-like VA Conference Room, the president remarked on his first 100 days, “It’s not quite as big as they say, but we have really laid a foundation, had a lot of legislation passed, which nobody understands, I think it’s 28 bills, as of this moment, somebody said ‘by the time it ends it’s 32 bills,’ and tremendous legislation, but we’ve already made huge strides to improve the VA. And the VA services.”

Citing a new web site that provides VA hospital wait times, the president took an aim at the Obamacare saying, “This is a web site that works. This is not the $5 billion Obamacare web site….does anybody remember the $5 billion website? No. I don’t think so. We don’t have to remember it anymore.”

“This executive order makes it clear that we will never, ever tolerate sub-standard care for our great veterans. 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. At the same time, we will reward and retain the many VA employees – of which we have many,” he said.

“Our veterans have secured this nation, with their blood, sweat and tears, and we will not let them down,” he promised.

Before the president spoke, the VA Secretary David Shulkin and then Vice President Pence addressed the gathering. Pence said, “My life did not take me on a pathway to wear the uniform of the United States, but I’m the son of a soldier, and I’m the proud father of a United States Marine.”

VA Secretary Shulkin

Earlier on Wednesday (April 26) VA Secretary Shulkin addressed journalists in the Brady Press Briefing room saying that the aim of the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, is to identify any barriers that might exist to removing bad employees and holding VA employees accountable for wrongdoing.

Asked to comment how the VA will convince the whistleblowers that if they come forward, they are covered, Shulkin said, “This office is going to have a direct report to me.”

Promising to investigate any issues related to retaliation against the whistleblowers, Shulkin said, “The message is clear that we will not tolerate whistleblower retaliation in the Department of Veterans Affairs. And we will take actions if we do determine that retaliation has been imposed upon an employee who has come forth with an issue.”

“Accountability is an important issue to us at VA and something that we’re focusing on to make sure that we have employees who work and are committed to the mission of serving our veterans, and when we find employees that have deviated from these values, we want to make sure that we can move them outside of VA and not have them working at VA,” he said.

Answering a question about reports that an employee was recently accused of watching pornography, Secretary Shulkin said, “That was a situation where we found a physician that had been watching pornography in the setting with a patient. Because that was raised to my attention, I made the decision personally to propose the removal of that employee. And that was done immediately.”

But the VA Secretary asked the lawmakers to expedite new legislations to allow special rights for civil servants to be charged and removed. Lamenting that the present situation makes that difficult, Shulkin concluded, “Yes, If there is any change to the process, to the due process, that would need to be done legislatively.”

Promise of Better Customer Service

On the question of day-to-day working and problems faced by the veterans as they visit even the medical outlets, Secretary Shulkin differentiated those as “poor customer service and poor focus and attention and poor training.”

Shulkin continued, “So what we are doing is focusing on creating a culture where that doesn’t exist. I can’t tell you today that with 360,000 employees that people don’t on occasion experience that. What we’re working hard to do is to make sure that everybody who works in the VA understands that their mission is to serve and to serve our veterans. And when we find behaviors like that, we had to address them from a management perspective, not necessarily an accountability perspective.”

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