FMA PRESIDENT NIEHAUS COMMENTS ON CONGRESSIONAL CALLS TO STREAMLINE FIRING OF VA EMPLOYEES - May 30, 2014
AMERICA'S CIVIL SERVICE CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT BE FURTHER POLITICIZED
Alexandria, VA - As details continue to be learned about irresponsible actions at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Federal Managers Association President Patricia Niehaus released the following statement in response to the knee-jerk reactions by many in Congress. The passage of HR 4031 in the House of Representatives, and the introduction of similar legislation in the Senate that would give the secretary of Veterans Affairs “complete authority” over senior executive service officials in the department, including the ability to demote or fire them is shortsighted.
“Over the coming months we will learn more about what actually transpired at the Department of Veterans Affairs in regard to allegations that employees failed to properly look after the needs of veterans who most needed assistance. It appears that some veterans passed away while awaiting VA health care. If true, this is truly a shameful tragedy that must never be allowed to happen again.
“However, it is unacceptable for anyone in Congress to call for a streamlining of firing high-level, or any level of federal employee, based simply on appearances or uninvestigated accusations. Over the past two hundred years, the United States has purposefully moved to a more responsible and thoughtful approach to how its government employees, and indeed all laborers, should be treated. This was done in order to ensure that the greatest country in the world acted as an example to be followed. No longer would we accept the patronage system of old where presidents handed out plumb jobs at all levels of government to friends, regardless of abilities or experience. The United States purposely established a professional civil service system that stands apart from politics and ensures the people’s work is conducted without interruption, regardless of which party controls the presidency, Senate or House of Representatives.
“I was pleased to see that on May 21, 2014, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor in opposition to H.R. 4031. No matter one’s politics, we should all agree with Rep. Hoyer when he stated, ‘All of us in this body need to be for accountability. None of us in this body, however, ought to be for turning a civil service system into a patronage system. None of us ought to be for turning a civil service system, one of the best in the world, if not the best in the world, into a system which allows for no reason that needs to be articulated to turn senior executives into at-will employees.
“FMA is deeply disappointed by the actions of the few federal executives at the VA who have thrown doubt upon the entire department. The VA’s inspector general has released a preliminary report on the misconduct of these employees and proper actions will follow. However, the actions of these few should not outweigh the good that federal employees do each day. We must now focus on rectifying the wrongs committed and move forward. While the current system is certainly not perfect, it does provide for review and investigations of misconduct from within and without the federal government. If those systems need improving, Congress should focus on making these improvements. Allowing employees to be fired without review or investigation is simply not the American way."