Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has warned the Department of Veterans Affairs against “expensive paid vacations” for employees who were placed on paid leave following accusations of falsifying patient waiting lists.
In a letter sent Wednesday to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, Grassley said Office of Personnel Management and comptroller general precedents generally “limit the authority for paid administrative leave … only for short periods of time.”
“It is troubling that several VA employees are being placed on administrative leave pending potentially lengthy investigations,” he added. “If those employees are receiving their full salary while on leave, it could result in significant waste of taxpayer money in annual salaries for highly paid employees who are not working. It would only add insult to injury if the investigations find that these expensive paid vacations are being given to the very employees responsible for the misconduct at the VA.”
The letter did not offer an alternative, but a spokeswoman for Grassley said reassignment to other duties could be considered in cases like these.
Cheri Cannon, a partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey, said though Grassley may view administrative leave as a paid vacation, “a federal employee cannot be separated from their position until an investigation has been completed and due process has been served, including a right to respond to any substantiated allegation.”
The notion that a long paid administrative leave is a vacation has been vigorously rejected by those who have experienced it. For example, Paul Brachfeld, the National Archives inspector general has been on paid administrative leave since Sept. 14, 2012, pending an investigation into allegations of professional misconduct.
Grassley has complained that this long leave places Brachfeld in limbo.
Brachfeld emphatically denies the allegations and finds the long leave demoralizing.
“I don’t think anybody would like to live the life I’ve lived,” Brachfeld said.
The VA did not have an immediate response to Grassley’s letter.