According to the 2017 and monthly Accountability Reports from the Veterans Administration, the agency has fired over 3,600 employees since January 1, 2017. The job descriptions of those dismissed run the full gamut, from cemetery caretakers to woodworkers to housekeepers. The job descriptions of the majority of firings are those involved in patient care.
During his campaign for office, President Trump complained that it was nearly impossible for the VA to let under-performing employees go from government service. This was not a claim without merit. Rank and file employees of the agency are members of the American Federation of Government Employees and as labor unions go, the AFGE was well-known for shielding its members from disciplinary actions that resulted in termination. One VA report submitted to Congress on this issue stated that an average of fifty-five days passed between the time a complaint against an employee was filed and when a determination was finally reached.
The cause of this upturn in terminations at the long-troubled VA is most likely due to the passage of the VA Accountability and Whistle Blower Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, and signed into law by the President on June 23 of last year. This was nearly three years after the 2014 scandal involving the VA hospital in Phoenix, AZ, where an investigation found at least thirty-five veterans had died waiting for care and administrators were filing false reports on meeting wait time goals of 14 days. The investigation into the situation in Phoenix revealed that they had been “gaming” the reporting on goal objectives since at least 2009. These goal performance metrics were tied to funding and bonuses for VA administrators at this hospital, so it was apparent that the fraud was systemic and came from the top — and, therefore, could not be attributed to sloppy record keeping.