U.S. military veterans listen in the audience during a House Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing on the Phoenix VA Health Care System wait list, on Capitol Hill in Washington May 28, 2014.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

VA officials fired over wait time debacle

Four senior Veterans Affairs officials are losing their jobs in response to the scandal over long wait times for appointments at VA health facilities, a purge meant to change the culture and create more accountability at the agency.

The firings, which were announced Monday, are the first since Congress made it easier to fire top VA officials this summer in response to the scandal. Two of the officials being fired were hospital directors in Pittsburgh and Dublin, Georgia, one a regional hospital director in Alabama, and a purchasing official at the Veterans Health Administration.

The fired officials can appeal their dismissals, but they will only have a week to submit them, and a decision would be made within 21 days of the appeal.

“VA will actively and aggressively pursue disciplinary action against those who violate our values,” Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Monday, according to the Associated Press. “There should be no doubt that when we discover evidence of wrongdoing, we will hold employees accountable.”

In April, a retired VA doctor in Phoenix exposed a system at the hospital that kept veterans in need of care off of official waiting lists. Dozens of people died while waiting to receive care. Further reviews found that there were scheduling issues, massive staff shortages, and overloaded facilities around the country. One investigation found “systemic” failures through the VA health system.

Eric Shinseki resigned as Secretary of Veterans Affairs in May, and former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald took over in July. McDonald has vowed to overhaul the VA’s hierarchy to improve communication, ordering VA facilities to hold town hall meetings to hear community concerns.