This week, nearly two years after the discovery of falsified records that kickstarted the Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System, the agency recommended the removal of three Phoenix executives--but the process of actually firing them is far from over, according to Cronkite News.
The next step after the recommendations is a 30-day review period, during which all three will still draw paychecks. If, at the end, the VA decides to terminate their employment, they still have the option to appeal, extending the process even further. "There should be no appeal process, no reassignment and no pension. Federal employees should not be a protected class," Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said, according to the article. "It shouldn't be this hard to fire someone who is bad at their job."
Appeal options vary among the three executives, according to the article. Chief of Staff Darren Deering, M.D., can file a grievance, a process that can take 75 days following the initial 30-day review. Associate Director Lance Robinson and Chief of Health Administration Services Brad Curry can both appeal twice to the Merit Systems Protection Board, a process that can take more than a year, and even after exhausting that option can take their fight to court.
Even as the review begins, there is more troubling news about the VA. A new report finds the Phoenix facility knowingly allowed 10 suicidal vets to leave the emergency department despite the fact that seven were on a medical hold. The VA has only been able to account for the whereabouts of half of the 10. "My question, 'What happened to those five other vets?'" whistleblower Brandon Coleman told ABC-15. "They're not getting the care they need and suicidal vets continue to walk out of the VA's ER."
The probe's findings have spurred several changes at the facility, according to the ABC-15 article, including timer delays on exits, only assigning staff to monitor one suicidal patient at a time and moving suicidal patients' rooms farther from exits.