We Know The Solution, So What’s The Problem?
Back in 2010, Veterans Affairs employee Jed Fillingim admitted to police officials that he could not remember how many drinks he had the night he illegally used a government vehicle to “bar hop.” The night Fillingim was driving, a female companion who was in the back of the vehicle fell out died from a severe head injury and a severed leg.
By the time a blood-alcohol test was taken, 7 hours after his last drink, Fillingim blew a .03, below the legal limit which saved him from a DUI charge.
Although supervisors recommended that Fillingim be fired, VA officials in Washington refused.
In 2017, an NBCWashington.com report confirms that as of January, Fillingim remained employed as a VA manager, making over six figures and has never been held accountable for his actions.
Fillingim’s recklessness is not an isolated case. The Wall Street Journal reported in November, 2014 that “more than 5,000 Department of Veterans Affairs employees are currently subject to disciplinary proposals with more than 40 of them (directly) related to patient care.”
General George Patton once said of his troops, “If you can’t get them to salute when you tell them to salute, or wear the clothes you tell them to wear, how can you get them to die for their country?”
In a time of peace, this type of accountability seems extreme to civilians, but this is the very accountability our veterans themselves espoused to!
So one may ask, if the problem is known, why is there still a problem? Good question.
It’s obvious that the VA’s leadership won’t hold its employees accountable, because it can’t. The lack of accountability is the fatal flaw for which our veterans are paying the price (again!).
A major part of the problem is that the Veterans Affairs’ employees are shielded by unions. Senator Berry Sanders (I-VT) who was the then chairman of the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee, refused to disband the Merit Systems Protection Board when lawmakers learned of the incompetence of senior executive in the infamous veteran wait-time scandal. (This appeals board settled a whopping 71% in favor of the employee who challenged their termination or disciplinary action.) At that time, Republicans caved under the pressure and retained the appeals board – once again not holding incompetent workers accountable, leaving our veterans to suffer.
Thankfully, under current Republican leadership, the frustration level has reached a tipping point. The House approved legislation to make it easier for the Secretary of the VA to fire or demote employees for poor performance or bad conduct. For too long, Congress has neglected diligently exercising its oversight powers of the VA. This bill is a step in a positive direction.
While the bill has the support of the White House, VA Secretary David Shulkin and Republicans in Congress, it is receiving pushback from the Democrats under pressure from the unions.
The Veteran’s Administration is fatally flawed, literally. Inaction is no longer an option when it comes to serving those who served us.
The VA motto comes from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.”
We must demand immediate accountability, fix the VA and care for those who have borne the battle, and not kowtow to those who haven’t. It’s time to put our veterans first.