Documents Cast Doubt on Claim that 60 VA Employees Have Been Fired for Manipulating Wait Times

New VA head made claim on 'Meet the Press'

BY:

UPDATE February 18 1:28 P.M.: 

The Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed on Wednesday that 60 employees tied to wait time manipulations have not been fired but said the department has "proposed" disciplinary actions in those cases.

"VA has proposed disciplinary action related to data manipulation or patient care against more than 60 employees nationwide," spokesman James Hutton said.

That figure, Hutton explained, includes all accountability actions, such as admonishments, demotions, reprimands, and termination.

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Documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon cast doubt on claims made Sunday by the secretary for veterans affairs that 60 people who manipulated wait time data have been fired by the agency over the last half-year.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said on Sunday that the agency is improving and working toward holding officials accountable, firing 900 employees in the past six months.

"We're making fundamental changes in the department. In terms of leadership, we’ve held accountable about 900 employees who are no longer with us, that were with us before," McDonald said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

"900 people have been fired, since I became secretary. We’ve got 60 people that we fired who have manipulated wait times. We’ve got about 100 senior leaders who are under investigation now … so we're holding people accountable."

The appearance was McDonald’s first on a Sunday program since taking over the embattled agency in July 2014. McDonald replaced former-Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned after it was revealed that 40 veterans died while waiting to receive care at the Phoenix VA facility.

However, new documents obtained and viewed by the Washington Free Beacon raise questions about the information McDonald provided to NBC, specifically the claim that 60 employees were fired because they manipulated wait times.

According to these documents, as of Feb. 5, 2015, only 11 employees tied to wait time manipulations have been fired.

The document, which was given to the Free Beacon by a Republican staffer, is sent to both the House and Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs for "official use only," and "provides the Department’s weekly report on adverse employment actions initiated since June 3, 2014, on any basis related to patient scheduling, record manipulations, appointment delays, and/or patient deaths."

The employees in the report are facing "adverse personnel actions," which are either "proposed" or already "taken."

The document lists the names of employees facing disciplinary action and their position title. For each employee, the report then notes the proposed disciplinary action, the date it was proposed, the action taken, and the effective date of each action.

Based on this report, from June 3, 2014, to February 5, 2015, the department has proposed a total of 74 personnel actions related to scheduling or record manipulation; five of them were actions against VA executives.

Eleven employees, three of whom held executive positions, are listed as having been removed.

In other cases, employees are listed as resigning, being suspended, "demoted," "admonished," or "reprimanded." In some cases, no disciplinary action was taken.

At least 15 cases are listed as "pending."

The Department of Veterans Affairs did not respond to several requests for comment at press time.

Ellison Barber   Email Ellison | Full Bio | RSS
Ellison Barber is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon, where she pens a daily column "Ellison's Must Read of the Day" and a weekly "Sunday Show Roundup." As a reporter, she covers Capitol Hill. Ellison is a frequent guest on Fox News Channel, and Fox Business Network. She is a former contributor at The Blaze. She graduated from Wofford College, has great taste in music, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. Her twitter handle is @ellisonbarber.

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