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GOP lawmaker says VA full of 'pep talks and empty platitudes

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, testifies during a House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing on "Scheduling Manipulation and Veteran Deaths in Phoenix: Examination of the OIG's Final Report" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) on Tuesday criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for continuing to talk tough about employee discipline, but refusing to fire anyone involved in the VA health care scandal.

Coffman wrote just a day after the VA announced it had settled three cases involving retaliation against VA workers who blew the whistle on corruption and shoddy practices at the VA heath center in Phoenix. While the VA said it doesn't tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers, it gave no indication that it will actually fire or do anything else to discipline the retaliators.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald was asked Tuesday — again — why no one has been fired at the VA. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"Conspicuously absent from the release is any announcement of actions to hold the managers who engaged in the retaliation accountable," Coffman wrote to VA Secretary Robert McDonald.

"While the release is another opportunity for you to tout your ICARE program, pep talks and empty platitudes will not change the culture of corruption that resulted in the national scheduling and patient death scandal," Coffman added. "Action is needed to terminate from federal employment those officials who were involved in the data manipulation schemes and who tried to cover it up through retaliation against whistleblowers."

While Congress gave the VA secretary the authority to quickly remove employees who aren't serving the VA's mission, McDonald so far doesn't appear to be willing to use that authority. Coffman asked that he do so without delay.

"You were provided the necessary tools to expedite termination of senior officials for poor performance or misconduct," he wrote. "It is time for you to use it."

However, that new authority applies only to senior officials at the VA, and therefore could only be used if senior officials were involved in retaliation against VA workers.

While few if any VA employees have been fired, the VA continues to act as if it's being tough. Last week, the VA said it was considering firing an employee who had already left for retirement the day before.

Read Coffman's letter here:

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