Published: Sun, April 30, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

President Trump signs executive order creating accountability office at VA

President Trump signs executive order creating accountability office at VA

President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order on "Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection" at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Thursday, April 27, 2017, in Washington.

Isakson was at the VA headquarters for the signing ceremony.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin toured the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center Friday, met with administrators and conducted interviews of hospital staff concerning the late February viral Facebook post showing a veteran, exhausted, lying on a floor after having waited hours for medical attention.

Shulkin also said that the the new office will create a new level of accountability for agency employees while also ensuring "that we're honoring the commitment we have to our whistleblowers that come forth and identify issues, so that there's not a retaliation against them".

The office is a byproduct of a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the VA medical center in Phoenix.

A White House official told CNN that the office will "discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans". The EO will impact the Department of Veterans Affairs and the signing will take place at the VA. Shulkin said there could be "substantial" cost, but he didn't have an estimate.

Trump's short trip across Lafayette Park from the White House to VA headquarters in Washington is created to follow his campaign promises to clean up the embattled department, which lawmakers have criticized in recent years for being slow to respond to incompetence or criminal behavior.

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But Shulkin told USA Today that he alone would oversee the new accountability office, and it would focus on the entire VA workforce, not just senior officers - the main subject of OAR's work.

The VA has been criticized for years for failing to quickly fire problematic employees, and Trump repeatedly vowed on the campaign trail he would increase accountability at the VA. "[The order] makes it clear that we will never tolerate substandard care for our great veterans".

"We're going to help and we're going to make this so good". That legislation stalled last Congress after unanimously passing the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

"The longer the Senate waits, the longer veterans will suffer", said Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America.

The order will create a new VA office to identify poorly performing employees. It also has been ordered to stand up a central whistleblower office.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday on an internal VA memo describing the hiring restrictions, citing a need to be leaner as it develops plans to expand care to the private sector.

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