Trump planned to sign an executive order Thursday to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the matter on the record.
He added that the creation of the new office is created to hold anyone who "fail our veterans" accountable.
Sources with knowledge of VA's inner workings said that the order sounds duplicative of the Office of Accountability Review, a legal group created by acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson in 2014 at the height of a public outcry to investigate "improprieties related to patient scheduling and access to care, whistleblower retaliation, and related matters that impact public trust in VA".
The moves could lead to faster firing of problem employees at VA offices and a downsizing of corporate staffs across the 365,000-person department, VA Secretary David Shulkin told reporters on Thursday. While most are careful to stress that the vast majority of VA workers are conscientious and eager to serve vets, they have long fought for accountability measures to swiftly fix what's broken in veteran care.
"This executive order makes it clear that we will never ever tolerate substandard care for our great veterans", Trump said.
The office's eventual head will report directly to VA Secretary David Shulkin, who said the office will help identify "barriers" that make it hard to fire or reassign employees who are no longer considered fit to work there and serve veterans.
The office is similar to one proposed by Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson, who leads the Senate VA Committee, in bipartisan legislation a year ago.
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Trump is "asking through his executive order for the VA to do everything that it can internally", Shulkin said at a White House briefing on Wednesday.
Stay on topic - This helps keep the thread focused on the discussion at hand. He came forward two years ago, revealing that suicidal veterans at the Phoenix VA were walking out of the emergency room, turned away and uncared for.
It did not take long for the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs to figure out there was something seriously wrong with conditions at the VA medical center in the District.
Shulkin said he spoke with Durham VA Medical Center Director DeAnne Seekins about the "specific disciplinary actions related to the incident" and talked to employees about their experiences and issues of concern with the goings-on at the Durham VA. "We, of course, were very concerned when we saw the reports and saw the video and it is not acceptable for us to treat our veterans but the most respect", Shulkin said.
Existing VA employees will staff the office, despite departmentwide staff shortages and the decision to leave thousands of positions unfilled.
Major veterans organizations also worry this could be a sign of future tightening at the VA, coming after the department had previously warned it would need "hiring surges" to address a rapidly growing disability backlog.