Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, blasted the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday for allowing one executive accused of serious misconduct at the Cincinnati VA hospital to retire with full benefits and another to remain on the agency's payroll while two investigations continued to uncover evidence of abuse at the facility.
"Almost every day, we are reminded that the federal civil service system is designed to coddle and protect corrupt and incompetent employees and that the Obama administration's refusal to address this dysfunctional status quo is doing real harm to veterans and taxpayers," Miller said.
"The latest installment in this depressing saga is VA's announcement today that VISN 10 Director Jack Hetrick will retire — likely with full benefits and a lifetime pension – and that Cincinnati VAMC Acting Chief of Staff Barbara Temeck will remain on the department's payroll making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for the foreseeable future," he added. "A VA investigation has already substantiated that both employees committed serious misconduct in violation of multiple VA regulations and quite possibly the law, yet both of these individuals are still collecting taxpayer-funded paychecks."
Both Hetrick and Temeck were at the center of a scathing report published earlier this month by Scripps News and WCPO that found cost-cutting measures had yielded dangerous conditions for veteran patients at the Cincinnati VA hospital.
Dozens of whistleblowers alleged the hospital, under the leadership of Hetrick and Temeck, slashed vital medical services for veterans and provided physicians with dirty surgical instruments while Temeck netted two separate six-figure salaries, one for a job she allegedly did not do.
Days before the news report was set to break, the VA announced an internal investigation into unspecified allegations of misconduct at the Cincinnati hospital. Officials also said the inspector general had been asked to look into the issue.
VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson had reportedly moved to fire Hetrick before the regional director retired. Oversight of the Cincinnati facility was shifted to Pittsburgh when the VA opened its investigation into allegations against Hetrick.
In addition, the VA suspended Temeck, the hospital's acting chief of staff, from her patient care duties. She remains employed at the VA.
Miller criticized the Obama administration for a proposal to address a perceived lack of accountability at the agency in part by raising pay for the highest-ranking VA officials.
The Florida Republican said the proposal "would do absolutely nothing to prevent similar instances of taxpayer abuse in the future."
Miller called on the VA to work with Congress on "common-sense" measures that would allow the agency "to quickly purge corrupt and incompetent employees from the payroll and prevent convicted felons from sneaking out the back door with full taxpayer-funded pensions."
"Until then, situations like this, in which taxpayers are forced to subsidize bad behavior, will only continue," he added.