It’s been an increasingly embarrassing year for the embattled Veteran’s Affairs Department, which has been accused of cover-ups and hidden wait lists on top of mismanaging expensive construction projects at the taxpayers’ expense.
And it’s only getting worse.
In the latest saga into the troubled department, The Washington Examiner reported that the VA allowed one of its top officials at a Puerto Rico hospital facility to collect his full $180,000 senior executive salary despite showing up only one in three business days a year.
On top of that, during one of the official’s excursions, he was arrested for possessing oxycodone without a prescription. The Examiner said DeWayne Hamlin missed at least 80 days last year, while raking in his six-figure government salary, all at the taxpayers’ expense.
The agency’s “delegation of authority” documents revealed that he transferred his job responsibilities to other workers at the hospital while he was out of the office.
When asked how many vacation and sick days each year employees are allowed to take off, a spokesperson for the hospital said Hamlin’s “attendance was in conformance with applicable rules and regulations,” the Examiner reported.
Separately, as the Examiner noted, a federal worker in Tampa, Florida, was charged with stealing government funds for missing work 50 percent of the time while earning full pay.
Still, Hamlin remains on the government’s payroll.
And he’s not alone. Today, the VA’s inspector general accused a top official at an administrative office in Hawaii of manipulating agency data to make it look like it was processing more claims than it actually was, according to Stars and Stripes.
The reports both highlight the government’s nearly impossible process for firing federal workers—whether they’ve committed fraud, or they’re just poor performers.
Last year, when hidden wait lists were uncovered at VA hospitals across the country, lawmakers demanded the removal of several top officials from the VA, including, then Secretary Eric Shinseki. However, other than Shinseki, very few officials actually ended up leaving.
Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office released a report highlighting just how difficult it is to actually fire a government worker. The process is over 100 days long, the GAO said, so most agencies don’t even bother.
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