To Be More than a Photo Op, Trump’s Executive Order on VA Accountability Must Be Made Meaningful

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April 27, 2017

Today, President Trump signed an executive order creating a new office at the Department of Veterans Affairs to hold employees accountable and to protect whistleblowers. In 2014, nearly 1,000 VA employees and veterans submitted information to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), which conducted in-depth investigations on rampant whistleblower retaliation and other problems at the VA. POGO has continued to advocate for stronger accountability and whistleblower protections at the VA, and has testified before Congress on these issues.

POGO’s Executive Director Danielle Brian said:

Our veterans have earned world-class care. Unfortunately, the VA has often failed to deliver on the “square deal” promised to vets. 

For the VA to realize its potential, whistleblowers need to feel they can safely come forward with concerns. Problems, especially those impacting the health and safety of veterans, need to be acted upon and fixed—promptly. And bad actors, no matter how senior, need to face meaningful discipline. Last year, Congress created the Central Whistleblower Office at the VA to serve as a hub for whistleblower protections and investigations at the VA. POGO spoke against this office then, due to the potential for abuse based on a lack of independence. The problems with this office aren't addressed by this Executive Order. 

We encourage the VA and the White House to work with whistleblowers, veterans’ service organizations, good government groups, and Congress to ensure that the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection is not a counterproductive trap for VA employees. This executive order must be more than a photo op: it must be a real effort to actually improve accountability and care for the men and women who signed up to defend us all.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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