VA limiting new hiring as it aims to widen private care

Trump Hiring Freeze

Trump Hiring Freeze

On Thursday President Trump is said to be signing an executive order that will create an accountability and whistle blower protection office at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Associated Press reports.

"I am honored to work with President Trump on holding the VA accountable so it delivers the best possible care for those who put their lives on the line for this great nation", said Tester, ranking member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee.

It will help provide veterans with the "health care they need and the health care they deserve", Trump said at the signing. He says 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 collection of photos posted on Facebook of veterans waiting hours in Durham for medical treatment touched on a nationwide concern, a large collective nerve and frequent hot-button issue for debates - extended waiting times endured by US veterans at their local VA medical facilities.

Scattered showers through the weekend
Saturday night will still be cloudy with snow possible and a low of 25. - A low around 45 Monday night , with partly cloudy skies. MONDAY: Scattered rain showers and thunderstorms continue for Monday, with a mild high temperature of 70 degrees.

"We appreciate that President Trump is taking steps to fix the VA's toxic culture, but the job will not be finished with just this executive order", said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

Shulkin said the new office will also work to preserve whistleblower rights - "we will investigate any reports of retaliation" - but on a broader scope than past such initiatives.

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.

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. He also quickly determined that senior VA officials had always been aware of some of the problems and so could not be trusted to fix them.

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It's unclear if Trump's order will to identify new funding for the office.

In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, the secretary expressed dismay at his inability to fire an employee who was watching pornography while caring for a patient. But they'll take a particular focus on the headquarters staffs, with an eye towards reducing the number of department employees who don't interact directly with veterans.

At Trump's invitation, Tester attended today's signing. Shulkin has said that his reform effort includes building a more "integrated" model of VA care that uses private doctors and doctors from other federal agencies. He immediately relieved the facility's director of his duties and installed one of his close advisers, Lawrence Connell, as acting director to make sure the problems were fixed.

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