Recently, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson took the bold step of declaring that the VA would ignore an order from the Merit Systems Protection Board to reinstate Linda Weiss, former director of the Albany-Stratton VA Medical Center in New York, to her position and to award her back pay.
In a statement, Gibson said “we believe today’s untimely decision is unenforceable under the law, and does not entitle Ms. Weiss to return to VA employment.” In their case against Weiss, the VA said she was aware that a nursing assistant was abusing patients but failed to remove the employee from patient care in a timely manner.
IAVA has been in the forefront of efforts to restore accountability and process reform at the VA and applauds the actions of Deputy Secretary Gibson.
While a vast majority of VA employees serve veterans in an exemplary way, there are also those who discredit the VA through underperforming or plain negligent acts. Being able to jettison these employees in an expedited manner that also protects the whistleblower is key to restoring VA morale and providing the veteran with quality and timely care as possible.
As your watchdog in D.C., IAVA has advocated for actions that would help continue the move toward more VA accountability. We support Secretary McDonald’s endorsement of Gibson’s idea to make the department’s executives at-will employees and we were an early supporter of the VA Accountability Act (H.R. 1994), which makes is easier for the VA Secretary to purge VA employees deemed to be bad actors.
While the Accountability Act has drawn opposition from the White House and has become a political hot potato due to the efforts of some outside organizations, IAVA has made it a priority to work with both sides of the aisle in order to pass legislation that can pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by the president.
These actions are but one step in the right direction. But as the saying goes, “the thousand mile journey begins with the first step.”