Washington Post: Trump loyalists reassign, remove VA employees

Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs loyal to President Donald Trump have reassigned or remove staffers per...

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 1:40 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 1:40 PM

Staffers at the Department of Veterans Affairs loyal to President Donald Trump have reassigned or remove staffers perceived as disloyal to the President and his agenda for veterans, people familiar with the actions told The Washington Post.

The Post reported that the transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants in leadership positions at the VA's headquarters, who were given lower-visibility roles. The staffers say they were given no reasons for the changes, according to The Washington Post.

The Post said the moves have been conducted by political appointees led by the VA's acting secretary, Peter O'Rourke. They are the latest sign of fractures at the agency, which came to a head months ago when former Secretary David Shulkin was ousted. The VA continues to suffer from sinking morale and has been shedding senior staff for months.

The Washington Post first reported, and CNN confirmed with a source familiar with the situation, that at least a half-dozen senior career staffers at the Veterans Benefits Administration have been transferred to less influential roles, some in other cities. But the reassignments and removals go beyond that part of the sprawling agency, according to The Washington Post, and have taken place as the President's nominee to lead the VA, Robert Wilkie, awaits full Senate confirmation.

A Pentagon spokesperson told CNN that Wilkie, who remains in his job as the head of military personnel at the Defense Department as he awaits the Senate vote, was not aware of or involved with the decisions.

"Any decisions made following Mr. Wilkie's departure as Acting SecVA were made by the current VA leadership and Mr. Wilkie was not aware, nor a part of those decisions," Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokesperson, told CNN. "It would be inappropriate for him to comment on this in his current role as USD."

VA spokesman Curt Cashour told CNN that Wilkie has had "zero involvement in VA decisions since he returned to the Department of Defense May 30." Cashour said that the personnel moves "are what's required to ensure VA is performing at its best.

"Under President Trump, VA won't wait to take necessary action when it comes to improving the department and its service to Veterans," he added.

Cashour added that in some cases, "employees who were wedded to the status quo and not on board with this administration's policies have departed VA," noting that some left the agency willingly, and others "against their will as they were about to be fired."

"It's understandable that some of these individuals would want to shift blame away from themselves in an attempt to save face. But the bottom line is that in President Trump's VA, if employees aren't getting the job done for veterans, it's time for them to move on," Cashour said.

O'Rourke was on Capitol Hill this week for a hearing about the VA's whistleblower protection office, which he used to lead, and was questioned by multiple members of Congress about the agency's staffing. In one exchange,Rep. Scott Peters, a California Democrat, asked O'Rourke "under what circumstances is disagreeing with the administration a fireable offense?"

Peters cited a VA news release issued in April in which the agency says that "under VA's new leadership, which is now firmly aligned with President Trump and his priorities, the department's operations have improved in many ways." The release goes on to say, "In a number of cases, employees who were wedded to the status quo and not on board with this administration's policies or pace of change have now departed VA."

O'Rourke told Peters that when any agency experiences an organizational shift, sometimes "folks realize, maybe on their own, that they don't want to be there."

"I think there's a few cases that we could look at of folks in senior positions where they advocated for a different approach and then the organization ... went in a different direction, and they felt like that wasn't a place they didn't want to be anymore," O'Rourke said.

In a separate exchange during the hearing, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a Connecticut Democrat, asked O'Rourke to explain why he had "removed, demoted or reassigned" a large number of career employees.

O'Rourke told Esty the moves were well planned and designed to improve "efficiency and effectiveness." Esty countered she believed that "loyalty concerns" were the reason for the transfers.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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