The new Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Office being created at the VA–the first but possibly not the last of such offices to be created by the Trump administration in a federal agency–is designed to advise Secretary Dr. David Shulkin on “any barriers 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,” per the executive order establishing the office.
Shulkin said that the office will “identify barriers that are preventing us from moving employees and people that we have identified that should no longer be working as VA, and make sure that we can do that expeditiously.”
He did not address specifics of enhanced recruiting, retention and rewards; agencies have various types of incentives available to them, but their use has been limited for years by budgetary considerations.
The order also tasks the new office to “work closely with relevant VA components to ensure adequate investigation and correction of wrongdoing throughout the VA, and to protect employees who lawfully disclose wrongdoing from retaliation.”
On that issue, Shulkin said that “we will be in investigating any issues related to retaliation. And the message is clear that we will not tolerate whistleblower retaliation in the Department of Veteran Affairs. And we will take actions if we do determine that retaliation has been imposed upon an employee who has come forth with an issue.”