SMOKE & MIRRORS: VA Scandals Continue, No Accountability whatsoever

vahospitalphoenix

MilitaryTimes: Employees involved in processing mistakes and manipulation at the embattled Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Regional Office won’t know whether they’ll face punishment for another two months, if at all.

That’s despite a scathing report released by the VA inspector general’s office last week which found misplaced mail, lackluster customer service and poor leadership. Officials identified an “immediate need to improve the operation and management” of the operation.

But the report did not name individuals to be disciplined for the failures, and VA Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey told reporters Monday that an internal review looking at possible reprimand or retraining won’t be complete until the end of June.

“If we see things that require accountability actions, if we find any intent to do things that show a lack of integrity, then I’m not afraid to take appropriate accountability action,” she said.

Whistleblowers

Hickey said VA leaders wanted to begin that work earlier, but were asked by the inspector general’s office not to move ahead with it until their review of the Philadelphia system’s problems was complete. That investigation took almost a full year.

Officials confirmed that the head of the Philadelphia office’s Pension Management Center has been temporarily reassigned, but Hickey insisted the move is not “a promotion, or a demotion.”

She said the change is unrelated to the internal review or critical report, but instead designed to help migrate pension cases into the department’s new digital systems.

Even before the second review is complete, Hickey characterized most of the serious problems at the Philadelphia office as on the mend, with dozens of fixes implemented even before the inspector general’s investigation was finalized.

That report’s findings included a need to “restore the trust of employees and promote open communications” at the office, something outside critics have charged may be impossible without significant leadership changes.

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the facility’s problems, and lawmakers have already vowed to grill VA leaders over reports of “mismanagement and exorbitant payments” to executives there.

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