The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is under fire for a scandal involving the scheduling of appointments for patients within the VA’s hospitals. The situation has received a great deal of media coverage, much of it asking questions the CNN story cited. The escalation by politicians, asking questions like “Why hasn’t anyone been fired yet” appear to be done to inflame the public and create a rush to judgment.
While there seems like there is evidence of scheduling irregularities and problems within the VA health system, the extent of the problem is still unknown and the Office of Inspector General is still investigating allegations.
Employee discipline is subject to many specific rules and procedures, and the suggestion that the VA Secretary should already be firing people is absurd. Whom would he fire and at this point how would he even know if they were responsible for the scheduling problems?
What is notable here is that most employees of the federal government are guaranteed due process when removal is threatened. Federal employment law is complex and this system is designed to prevent the kind of politically motivated, kneejerk reactions, and ensure that those who are terminated engaged in genuine wrongdoing.
Politically charged scandals are always difficult for federal employees. Instant changes are demanded, and with a complex system like the VA hospitals, assessing what happened and who is responsible will be a time consuming task.
If you work in any affected areas, one important element to keep in mind is documentation. For anyone who has been alleged to have participated in this situation, if you have contemporaneous emails, other written instructions or notes regarding these issues, they can help to provide a more accurate a reconstruction of what occurred.
And remember, the agencies attorneys work for the agency; they do not represent your interests.
Source: CNN.com, “VA scandal: Why hasn’t anyone been fired yet?” Lisa Desjardins, May 23, 2014