Lawmaker says Little Rock VA 'Stonewalling' information
The chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs says the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is 'stonewalling' his effort to get information about two employees there.
Two supervisory VA employees were reprimanded last month after an investigation revealed they manipulated wait times and directed subordinates at the Little Rock VA.
The investigation also revealed the two employees "displayed a lack of candor while making statements to special agents."
Last month, VA officials told Channel 7 News that the employees were still at the VA.
"Both of them are no longer in any capacity at this VA that has anything to do with scheduling or access. They are still employed here," said Tina McClain, acting Chief of Staff at the Little Rock VA.
According to a letter sent from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent to the President, it was recommended one of the employees be issued a 30-day suspension, while the other was recommended for termination.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) wrote a letter to Little Rock VA officials asking for information and wanting to know "why was it determined that lying to a Federal investigator was not grounds for removal or other serious adverse actions."
Sen. John Boozman agreed with Miller saying to Channel 7 News he didn't think the punishment was harsh enough.
"They were found out. It was remedied. Certainly I'd like to see greater punishment for their actions," Boozman said.
Miller told Channel 7 News that he's also having trouble getting information from the Little Rock VA regarding the two employee's current titles, pay grades and scopes of responsibilities.
"Because the Department of Veterans Affairs is a taxpayer-funded organization, it has a responsibility to fully explain itself to the press and the public. Unfortunately, in many cases the department is failing to live up to that responsibility. In this situation, it appears VA has resorted to stonewalling Congress, the press and the public in an effort to hide its lack of accountability for a number of employees connected to the department's wait-time scandal. The job titles, duty status and pay grades of VA employees are not protected information in any way," Miller said.
Channel 7 News also requested the same information, but did not receive the information.
A spokeswoman for the VA told Channel 7 News that they will respond directly to Miller regarding his request.
"CAVHS' goal is to be responsive and forthcoming to all inquiries. We appreciate the concerns of Chairman Miller and the information he requested was submitted by CAVHS. As with all oversight requests, once processed, VA's Office of Government Relations will respond directly to Chairman Miller. We would like to again reiterate, accountability of staff is very important and appropriate disciplinary action was taken against the two employees. Neither currently work in positions that deal with scheduling or access," the spokeswoman said.
Congressman French Hill also commented on the employee situation at the VA:
"Ending the pervasive lack of accountability at VA is the reason why I cosponsored H.R. 1994, the VA Accountability Act of 2015. This legislation would give the VA Secretary the authority to fire corrupt or incompetent employees for cause. Removing bad actorslike the two in Little Rock from the system will not just help ensure veterans get timelier access to care, but it will also protect the reputation of the many hardworking employees that embody the core mission of VA by working tirelessly on behalf of our veterans."