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Trump to sign order creating accountability office at VA

30 April 2017

President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order creating an accountability and whistleblower protection office at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin toured the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center Friday, met with administrators and conducted interviews of hospital staff concerning the late February viral Facebook post showing a veteran, exhausted, lying on a floor after having waited hours for medical attention.

The office is a byproduct of a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the VA medical centre in Phoenix.

They've sparred with Republican lawmakers over new accountability legislation already passed by the House (and endorsed by Shulkin) which would shorten appeals times and allow easier firing of employees involved in wrongdoing.

Even before the official announcement, news of Trump's new executive order drew concern from critics and praise from supporters of stronger VA accountability rules.

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. "Whether it is continued uncertainty of the hiring freeze at the VA or recent increases with disability claims backlog, Democrats stand ready to harness this spirit and address challenges facing the men and women in uniform who bravely served our country". "In this case, an investigation did go on and appropriate disciplinary action was rendered", Shulkin said.

"He's asking through his executive order for VA to do everything that it can internally", Shulkin said at a White House briefing on Wednesday.

Cavuto pointed out that right now, it's hard to fire a VA employee, let alone prosecute them.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized the VA as "the most corrupt" and pledged to expand private care.

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Shulkin insists he's made accountability a top priority and legislation would help.

"We're going to help and we're going to make this so good".

Veterans' organizations agreed that the VA needed to do more.

The office will investigate allegations of misconduct - including retaliation against whistle-blowing employees who reported abuses and long wait times - and duplication within the agency's workforce.

Right now, the VA is rolling out a new predictive tool called "Reach Vet". Existing VA employees will be transferred there, despite department-wide employee shortages and a decision to leave thousands of VA positions unfilled.

Shulkin acknowledged that there will be an additional cost to this office, stating that it is an important responsibility.

The executive order is one of several Trump is signing this week as he seeks to score accomplishments before Saturday, his symbolic 100th day in office. Shulkin said one of the jobs of the new accountability office will be to make sure there's no duplication of effort.

Tom Lutey, of The Billings Gazette, contributed reporting.

Trump to sign order creating accountability office at VA