Veterans Affairs Fires Four Senior Officials–Or Maybe Three

Veterans Affairs hospital in Pittsburgh / AP

The Veterans Affairs Department is firing four senior executives in the wake of a scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records to cover up wait times, the Associated Press reported.

Congress passed a law this summer to make it easier for veterans facing delays to get care outside of the VA network, and to make it easier for the VA to fire senior officials suspected of wrongdoing. These are the first firings since the law was put in place.

"VA will actively and aggressively pursue disciplinary action against those who violate our values," Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Monday. "There should be no doubt that when we discover evidence of wrongdoing, we will hold employees accountable."

The move may not be quite as it sounds, though–one of the ones fired had already retired, according to a Republican congressman.

John Goldman, director of the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin, Ga., said last month he was stepping down. Employees at the hospital have admitted to keeping false records to hide long wait times for veterans.

"Bragging about the proposed removal of someone who has already announced his retirement can only be described as disingenuous," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Miller called the VA's announcement of Goldman's dismissal a "semantic sleight of hand" that is insulting to veterans and their families hurt by the VA scandal.

Gibson and other VA leaders "must not tolerate this instance of what appears to be blatant deceit," Miller said.

The other fired employees are Susan Taylor, Terry Gerigk Wolf, and James Talton.

Taylor, deputy chief procurement officer, who oversaw $15 billion a year in federal contracts, helped steer contracts to a private company that "championed so-called reverse auctions, in which sellers compete with each other to offer the lowest bids." Taylor had already been offered a job with the Energy Department, but that offer has since been rescinded.

Wolf had been on paid leave since June after a VA review of a Legionnaire's disease outbreak in Pittsburgh related to the hospital's water system and was fired for unspecified "conduct unbecoming of a senior executive."  Talton, director of the Central Alabama VA Healthcare System, was fired after allegations of neglect of duty.