Tags: VA Scandal | jeff miller | fired | officials

Rep. Jeff Miller: 'Fired' VA Execs Getting Off Easy

By    |   Wednesday, 08 October 2014 07:24 PM

Senior officials targeted in a housecleaning at the scandal-wracked Department of Veterans Affairs aren't truly being held accountable, thanks to a loophole that lets them avoid the ax and leave with full benefits, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that new VA Secretary Bob McDonald is "moving in the right direction" to repair damage wrought by falsified paperwork and lethal patient backlogs at military hospitals — but Miller criticized severance deals for a quartet of top-ranking VA bureaucrats whose firings were announced on Monday.

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Miller said that the new VA management is giving terminated employees five days' notice of their removals, and that "if you give somebody notice, they're going to go ahead and retire or quit with no blemish on their records."

Miller cited one of the four: the chief VA hospital administrator in Dublin, Ga.

That official "got notice that he was going to be fired, so he chose to have a press release sent talking about his 42 years of service to the federal government and he was going to retire," said Miller. "So he got 'attaboys' from the media when really he was being fired."

Miller and another "MidPoint" guest, U.S. Army veteran Amber Barno, agreed that it's galling to see VA executives — some of whom may have received promotions, raises and bonuses based on practices that are now under federal investigation — be shown the door with little or no added penalty.

"That is not what accountability looks like," said Barno, a former staff sergeant and helicopter pilot who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Miller said that under the emergency VA funding bill signed into law this summer — following the resignation of the VA last secretary, Eric Shinseki — McDonald can fire subordinates immediately, without a showing of cause, and let a review board handle appeals.

But he said that because McDonald doesn't see it that way, "the secretary and I are agreeing to disagree right now."

Miller also called out Sen. Kay Hagan, North Carolina Democrat and Armed Services Committee member, who was at a fundraiser when veterans' care was the subject of a commitee hearing.

Miller said that Hagan's absence raises "questions that certainly need to be answered."

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"You put your politics before you put your job," said Miller, "and our job in Congress is to represent not only our district, but those individuals who are [covered by] the committees that we serve."

Barno said that bottom line, McDonald is not using his department's new funding and powers as intended.

"These people falsified data to cover up these long wait times," Barno said of the hospital administrators at the heart of the scandal. "These are not innocent employees that did nothing wrong — they hurt veterans. Some veterans died as a result of these wait times.

"And so what I would like to see is Secretary McDonald use this piece of legislation … to really correct the faults inside the VA and to start helping veterans," said Barno. "And that's not going to happen if they're just continuing to sidestep some of the [provisions] that were within the bill to really get the VA back on track."

Otherwise, she said, "this is just the VA coming out and trying to take credit for some accountability when that's not the case."

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Senior officials targeted in a housecleaning at the scandal-wracked Department of Veterans Affairs aren't truly being held accountable, thanks to a loophole that lets them avoid the ax and leave with full benefits, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee says.
jeff miller, fired, officials
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2014-24-08
Wednesday, 08 October 2014 07:24 PM
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