WASHINGTON—Some 4,300 Veterans Affairs (VA) workers have been demoted, fired, or suspended since President Donald Trump took office, Vice President Mike Pence told a room of veterans caregivers on Nov. 26.
Pence said that proves the president has “taken decisive action to restore accountability to the VA,” a statement that drew loud applause and cheers from the audience.
Data from the VA shows that some 2,058 employees were removed, demoted, or suspended in 2017, the majority of whom—1,484—were removed. In 2018, through the end of August, some 2,299 were removed, demoted or suspended, of which the majority—2,148—were removed.
The suspensions lasted 14 days or more; some of the removals in 2018 were done during a probationary period.
The numbers aren’t limited to the VA’s health care operations, though. They include agencies such as the National Cemetery Administration, the Office of Information and Technology, and the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP).
This year, the OAWP was involved in the removal of three senior leaders: two in the Veterans Health Administration and one in the Veterans Benefits Administration. Another two in the Veterans Health Administration, one a senior leader and the other a health-system specialist, were suspended.
The Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, signed by the president last June, created the OAWP to change the culture of bureaucracy that spawned stories of veterans dying while waiting to get treatment at VA facilities. Trump created the office by executive order last April, but it took the act to make it a permanent part of the VA.
As the title suggests, it also offers protection to whistleblowers, as a way to encourage the reporting of negligence. When Trump signed the act, he calledit “one of the largest reforms to the VA in its history.”