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Friday, April 4, 2014

Congressional leaders call for ouster of failing Veterans Affairs executives, but not of Secretary Eric Shinseki -- By Mark Flatten, The Washington Examiner

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters after a post House GOP conference meeting on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014. (Examiner/Graeme Jennings)House Speaker John Boehner said top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs should be fired for failing to do their jobs, but stopped short of calling for the ouster of Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki during a news conference Thursday.

When asked directly whether Shinseki needs to be replaced, the Ohio Republican said:

“No. I think the secretary needs to have more authority to manage his own department.”

That authority would come through a House bill giving the veterans secretary the power to fire or demote those in the Senior Executive Service, the top tier of agency management in the federal system.

Veterans are needlessly dying in VA hospitals and waiting years to resolve disability compensation claims. Yet the top officials responsible for delivering quality care and service are more likely to get a bonus than a pink slip, Boehner said.

He cited the nearly $12,000 bonus paid to Guy Richardson, who was director of the Dayton, Ohio, VA Medical Center, where unsanitary practices in the dental clinic potentially exposed hundreds of patients to hepatitis.

“I thought I’d seen the worst of government, but this goes beyond the pale,” Boehner said. “If you preside over a bureaucracy that is failing our veterans, you shouldn’t be receiving bonuses. You should be gone.”

Shinseki told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs last month he has the authority he needs to hold his people accountable for their failures. Last year 3,000 employees were forced out of their jobs agency-wide because of performance issues, he said.

Six SES-level executives have been “dismissed” over the past two years, Shinseki said.

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