It is always problematic when extreme cases are used as “examples” of a system. The Veterans Affairs healthcare system has many problems, as recent events have shown. Management at various levels has been accused of manipulating the scheduling system for veterans’ doctor appointments, to create a more favorable appearance of the scheduling process.
Some of these problems may have been caused by unrealistic goals that came from higher levels. They may have provided insufficient resources to fund the necessary number doctors to enable the timely scheduling of appointments. However, sorting out the cases is a time consuming business, and rushing to fire employees because someone “knows something” is problematic and too often reckless and illegal.
A case from Alabama was highlighted by a local newspaper and the Washington Post. A VA staffer is accused of driving a VA patent to a home known for drugs and prostitution. The newspaper complains that these “matters” are clear and should have been “dealt with” in less than year.
Perhaps they should. Perhaps the VA management has been derelict in their supervision of employees. However, the reason due process exists is to ensure that we have the facts of a situation before we make a judgment and that innocent employees are not injured, merely to speed the process along.
Disciplinary actions are confidential to prevent employees from being smeared by false allegations. We don’t know what occurred in Alabama, but careful, systematic investigations are the best corrective to poor management and bad personnel decisions.
The new VA law that permits rapid termination of senior executives could help correct some management problems, but it presupposes that those managers implementing the discipline actually know enough to make informed decisions and terminate the correct employees. Often, they know even less. And rushing things will not help this issue.
The Washington Post, “A VA employee, a crack house, and a lengthy firing process,” Josh Hicks, August 29, 2014