By: Leo Shane III
WASHINGTON — Veterans Affairs revealed on Wednesday several hundred employee firings that had not been publicly reported.
The revised tally matches comments made by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address. Trump said more than 1,500 VA employees had been fired since he signed new accountability legislation last summer.
Military Times on Tuesday night reported that Trump had exaggerated that number, citing VA’s own statistics on its website. On Wednesday, the VA said Trump’s figure included about 700 probationary dismissals not previously publicly reported.
During his address to Congress on Tuesday, Trump listed several veterans policy accomplishments among his administration’s most notable work of the past year. That included sweeping new rules for the hiring and firing of VA workers, which Republicans on Capitol Hill had sought for several years.
“Last year, the Congress passed, and I signed, the landmark VA Accountability Act,” Trump told lawmakers at the event. “Since its passage, my administration has already removed more than 1,500 VA employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve, and we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do.”
VA officials have publicly posted all employee firing, demotion and suspension data online since last July. Those reports showed 1,046 worker removals since mid-June, after the new legislation was signed.
But on Wednesday, following questions about Trump’s speech assertions, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the firing total should include 691 probationary dismissals not previously made public by the department.
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Including those new firings would bring the total number of VA workers fired since the bill’s signing to more than 1,700 individuals.
Official accountability reports posted weekly on the department’s website do not include any information about firings of workers during their initial probationary period. Cashour said starting Thursday, those dismissals will also be included in the weekly report updates.
“In the interest of transparency and to provide the most accurate picture of VA’s total firings, we have decided to include them in our public tally going forward,” he said.
VA officials have touted transparency as a key to department reforms throughout the last year, and said listing of employee firings would help inform broader debate about accountability and cultural changes at VA.