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Lawmakers Question VA Hospitals’ Paid Leave Practices

Lawmakers Question VA Hospitals’ Paid Leave Practices

The Veterans Health Administration has had no shortage of scandals in recent years, the latest of which concerns the way the organization deals with delinquent doctors. Since 2000, the VA has paid veterans and their families more than $1 billion in medical malpractice claims. In 2014, Robert A. McDonald was appointed as VA secretary and pledged to implement widespread reforms in the organization. Now, it appears there’s more work to be done.

A recent investigation by The Clarion-Ledger revealed that in 2014 alone, over 2,500 VA employees spent one month or more on paid leave. In total, this cost taxpayers $23 million dollars. So why is the VA putting so many of its employees on paid leave, sometimes for more than a year at a time? According to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, these paid leave practices are designed to protect the VA at the expense of taxpayers.

“Because of the federal government’s dysfunctional civil service laws that put the job security of bureaucrats ahead of the safety of veterans, the VA doesn’t have the ability to adequately discipline most misbehaving employees,” said Miller in a statement to The Clarion-Ledger. “As a result, the department’s problems don’t get fixed. They fester, as problem employees are either paid to do nothing, shuffled around or not dealt with at all.”

While this system of paid leave was designed to temporarily remove doctors from service during investigative procedures, it has been used instead to deflect attention and delay meaningful disciplinary measures. VA employees who have been placed on paid leave include a nurse’s aide charged with manslaughter in the death of a 70-year-old veteran and a neurologist who has been charged with at least five sexual misconduct charges.

Secretary McDonald has since acknowledged the disturbing issues with paid leave in the VA, but it remains to be seen what steps the organization will take to correct the problem.