VA: Porn Viewing Incident Underscores Need for Employee Accountability Legislation

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By on April 1, 2017 in Agency News with 0 Comments

The VA cited an incident in which it was unable to immediately remove an employee at the Michael DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston who was caught watching pornography while with a patient as evidence that it needs legislation from Congress to make it easier to remove employees for misconduct.

It was recommended that the employee be fired after a review of the incident. The VA transferred the employee from patient care into administrative duties.

Under current law, the VA must continue to pay employees who are in the process of being removed. During this advance notice period, at least 30 days from the date that the employee’s removal has been proposed, assuming there is no evidence that the employee has committed a crime, an employee must be paid.

If the employee has been assessed as a potential danger to Veterans, the employee should be placed on administrative leave with pay. If the employee does not pose an immediate threat to Veterans, he or she is typically placed on administrative duties, which limits contact with Veterans and their families while ensuring that the employee is not sitting at home collecting a pay check without providing any services to the government.

“This is an example of why we need accountability legislation as soon as possible,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin. “It’s unacceptable that VA has to wait 30 days to act on a proposed removal. Current legislation in Congress reduces the amount of time we have to wait before taking action.”

Portrait of VA Secretary David Shulkin

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin

The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 recently passed the House. The bill would would dramatically change the process for taking adverse or disciplinary actions against employees for cases of misconduct or poor performance. (See VA Accountability: Federal Government Trapped In A System In Desperate Need of Reform)

Legislation has also been moving through the House that would institute a zero tolerance policy for federal employees who watch porn on the job. Reintroduced in the current Congress by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the bill would standardize disciplinary procedures across agencies for employees caught watching pornography on the job.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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