American Legion Executive Director Verna Jones on Tuesday said the Department of Veterans Affairs is not moving quickly enough to fire officials involved in the VA health care scandal.
"The VA system is set up to take care of veterans, and if they didn't do everything they needed to do to take care of veterans, then they don't need to work for veterans, they don't need to be at the VA," Jones said in a Veterans Day interview on CSPAN.
"There's still people on paid administrative leave, getting money from the taxpayers, sitting at home collecting a check," she said. "They need to be fired, and it needs to happen soon. It should have already happened."
Jones's comments are the latest sign of frustration with the VA, which was given the authority by Congress earlier this year to fire bad employees, and for the most part hasn’t used that authority.
For the last few days, VA Secretary Robert McDonald has made a round of Veterans Day interviews saying he is slowing changing the culture at the VA. That culture led officials around the country to lie about the long wait times veterans were experiencing while waiting for health care, and then to cover up the scandal.
But McDonald has faced complaints from veterans groups and members of Congress that he has not fired those involved in the scandal, and has instead allowed many to remain on administrative leave, collecting a paycheck. A handful have been threatened with termination, but have opted to retire with full benefits instead of being told officially that they are fired.
On Sunday, McDonald said he has a list of more than 1,000 people at the VA who could be fired. But he said the VA is going to proceed carefully through these names, and didn’t say whether or when some or most of them might be fired, if ever.
Jones said due process should be followed, but said it should be followed at a much quicker pace than what the VA has shown so far.
"They can do it right, give the employee due process, and quicker than they're doing it right now," she said.
"Those employees don't need to be home collecting taxpayers' money," she added. "They need to be using those funds for someone who's going to come in and take care of veterans the way veterans deserve to be taken care of."
When asked if anything at the VA has been fixed by McDonald so far, she said, "I'm not sure if anything has been fixed, but there have been improvements made."