Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald says he has a list of more than 1,000 people that could be fired from the VA, and indicated the department is slowly working through that list to see who should be removed.
On an episode of 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night, McDonald was asked how many people should be fired from the VA.
“The report we’ve passed up to the Senate committee and House committee has about 35 names on it,” he said. A House aide said the list he has is actually a little longer, and has 44 names on it.
But then McDonald said many more might be coming. “I’ve got another report that has over 1,000,” he said.
When asked what all those people did that might get them fired, McDonald didn’t directly address the health care scandal that saw the VA systematically lie about the speed with which it gave veterans access to health care. But he did say the employees violated the values of the VA.
“We’re simplistically talking about people who violated our values,” he said. “Integrity, it’s advocacy, it’s respect, it’s excellence. These are the things that we try to do for our veterans.”
McDonald has come under harsh criticism from Republicans who say he isn’t moving quickly enough to implement a new law that allows the secretary to immediately fire workers. He told 60 Minutes that the VA is trying to make their cases “stick” with a judge. “We propose the action, the judge rules, and the individual has time to appeal,” he said.
The new law makes no mention of a judge, but McDonald has indicated over the last few weeks that the VA is taking steps internally to ensure people are removed for just cause. That involves a review and giving workers notice that they may be fired.
Republicans have argued that this process is not what was outlined in the legislation, and is giving VA workers time to escape by retiring early, before they are fired.