Accountability Office Will Play Role in Weeding Out Bad Staff

Whistleblowers to Get More Protection

By Sandra Basu

Tim Walz (D-MN)

WASHINGTON — After years of partisan grappling over how best to increase accountability among VA employees, the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection was created through presidential executive order last month.

The VA announced last month that Peter O’Rourke will serve as senior adviser and executive director of the office. O’Rourke is a veteran of both the Navy and Air Force who has held executive roles in nonprofit, consulting and the federal government. In his new role, he will report directly to the VA secretary.

“We need to hold our employees accountable for their actions if they violate the public trust, and at the same time protect whistleblowers from retaliation,” VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, emphasized. “Setting up this office under the strong leadership of Peter O’Rourke will give us the tools to do just that.”

The executive order creating the new office and position was signed at the end of April by President Donald Trump. In response, both Republicans and Democrats took credit for the idea.

The executive order explains that the office will “advise and assist the secretary in using, as appropriate, all available authorities to discipline or terminate any VA manager or employee who has violated the public’s trust and failed to carry out his or her duties on behalf of veterans, and to recruit, reward, and retain high-performing employees.”

In addition, the office will “identify statutory barriers to the secretary’s authority to discipline or terminate any employee who has jeopardized the health, safety, or well-being of a veteran, and to recruit, reward, and retain high-performing employees; and report such barriers to the Secretary for consideration as to the need for legislative changes.”

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