At the signing of the bill, Mr. Obama said: “If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period.” But since then, just nine people have been fired for manipulating wait times, according to the agency. And some of them, including Sharon Helman, the Phoenix medical system director at the center of the scandal, could get their jobs back.
Ms. Helman was fired in 2014, but she contested her termination in federal court, arguing that the new rules limiting her right to appeal were unconstitutional. A ruling is pending. In May, however, the Justice Department announced that it would not contest Ms. Helman’s claim, and in June, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would stop using the enhanced firing authority.
The move has angered many in Congress, who are now working on morenew rules to make it easier to fire agency executives.
“If you don’t have accountability, and you know your job is safe whether you perform or not, it’s hard to make any progress,” Mr. Isakson said. “Right now, that is what we have at the V.A.”