Readers speak out about IRS, VA and senior executives

Joe Davidson
Columnist July 24

The Federal Diary gets lots of reader reaction via e-mail, snail mail and online posts. Some of it is fit to print.

Occasionally, we give readers a chance to speak out by publishing their opinion, edited for clarity and length. U nfortunately, those posting comments online generally don’t use their real or full names.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. View Archive

Below are two examples of the many comments on Wednesday’s column about a House-approved bill to deny bonuses to all Senior Executive Service members in the Internal Revenue Service. The performance awards would be denied in fiscal year 2015 without any determination on how good or bad employees performed. I termed that plan “mass punishment,” which I also applied to similar Department of Veterans Affairs legislation the House previously passed.

“What is truly astounding, Mr. Davidson, is that people like you take the time and energy — while putting at risk your own personal integrity — to defend the IRS for anything. That outfit is a criminal enterprise and proves it every day. It has now added perjury and obstruction of justice to its long line of criminal activity. But man, liberals defend that entitled bunch of cowards like they were the 101st Airborne Group. What is it about the IRS that is so worthy, Mr. Davidson? Perhaps it’s the exciting nature of the way they go about intimidating folks. Or maybe it’s the cunning way they go about delving into all of a citizen’s finances that just gives you goosebumps. Of course, that would only be those citizens who actually pay their salaries, not the ones who live, like the Remora fish, off those of us who hunt for a living.” DrPuff

Note: I did not defend the IRS. Any IRS employee who did wrong should be punished. But those who did no wrong should not be punished with the guilty. Here’s one more comment:

“I served my fellow citizens as a soldier and civilian employee from the time of President Truman until the presidency of Jimmy Carter. As a consumer of government services ever since, I’ve observed that the quality of direct services to individual citizens by the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Office of Personnel Management, declined substantially beginning with the Reagan administration.

One of President Reagan’s most famous pronouncements was to the effect that ‘Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.’

A conspiracy theorist might conclude that there has been a deliberate attempt to reduce the quality of service to individual members of the public in order to make Mr. Reagan’s statement a self-fulfilling prophecy. And today’s Republican Congress, attacking agency performance rather than attempting to improve it, is part of the pattern.” olroy

Change awards system

Note: After an earlier column, this reader said there should be changes in the performance award system for all federal employees, not just senior executives.

“Changes in the bonus system should go beyond the VA. They should apply to ALL federal employees, from the typist who can’t spell and won’t (or can’t) use spell-check, to the whatever-their-title-was who spent their days ‘refreshing’ their computer screens because they somehow didn’t have any enrollment applications for Obamacare to process, to the IRS employees who managed to lose emails saved on at least three levels of backup server.

The more the American people hear about scandals like the VA and the IRS, the less faith they have in government and the less willing they will be to continue paying bonuses to federal SES workers.” Lynda Meyers, Arlington, Va.

Defending VA

Note: After reading a column that said testimony at a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing “cast the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs in even greater disrepute,” this reader defended the agency.

“I am a veteran and use the VA health system in conjunction with my private doctor. I have never had a bad experience. I also volunteer to transport other vets to the St. Louis VA care centers and have spent about 400 hours in the last 2.5 years doing that. I seldom hear a complaint of any type. Given the way Congressional hearings work I doubt anyone expected a [Rep. Darrell] Issa-led hearing to come up with any positives. I suggest you look at the President’s budgets for FY 2004-2007 and see what was proposed as opposed to what was appropriated. Guys like Issa and his ilk cared not one whit for veterans until the issue became a club to hit Pres. Obama with. Your article is just another example of piling on the bandwagon.” Jim O’Neill, Hillsboro, Ill.

Note: Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which also has dealt with veterans’ issues. He is not on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.

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