V.A. officials using ‘semantic sleights of hand’ to hide lack of accountability for patient deaths

V.A. officials using ‘semantic sleights of hand’ to hide lack of accountability for patient deaths

[Ed. – A perfect for Team Obama]

Top managers at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been held “accountable” for preventable patient deaths, falsified records and long backlogs in care.

What that means is not clear.

Even the fate of Sharon Helman, director of the Phoenix veterans’ hospital that is ground zero in the latest scandal involving secret waiting lists, is uncertain.

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Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said Wednesday he is “confident” Helman remains on the agency’s payroll, despite an announcement last month that suggested she was being fired.

“Removal from federal service, I am told, is the appropriate technical term, and that seems pretty clear,” Gibson said when asked directly whether Helman was fired. “This is not a VA euphemism. It is the practice.”

Getting rid of any federal employee takes time because of civil service laws and procedures, Gibson said.

“What we have done on those personnel actions is everything the law allows us to do in order to remove a person from federal service,” he said.

“Employees of the federal government in the process of a personnel action continue on the payroll of the federal government during the process of that action. So, (it’s) not a VA issue. It’s what the law is,” he said.

Gibson also said he does not know whether the VA has recovered Helman’s $9,345 performance bonus for the 2013 fiscal year.

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