“I will definitely miss the terrific staff I have had at VHA, both at headquarters and in the field nationwide, but I know that you will continue to admirably serve our veterans through your dedicated service,” Taylor wrote. She also indicated that the VA is trying to recruit a replacement for her.
The VA inspector general’s office said in a report last month that Taylor helped steer a contract to Vienna-based FedBid and worked with the government-services company to overturn an agency moratorium on work by the firm, in addition to interfering with an investigation of the matters.
The attempt to fire Taylor came after Congress and President Obama approved legislation giving the VA secretary greater authority to remove senior executives over wrongdoing and performance issues. The bill came in response to the VA’s record-keeping scandal, which involved widespread falsification of scheduling data to hide treatment delays.
With the new law in place, employees have one week to appeal termination decisions with the Merit Systems Protection Board, which in turn has three weeks to rule on whether to overturn the actions.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has raised concerns about the VA’s implementation of the law, specifically taking issue with the agency’s decision to give officials five days’ notice of plans to fire them so they have a chance to respond to charges and evidence.
“VA appears to be giving failing executives an opportunity to quit, retire or find new jobs without consequence,” he said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that VA officials involved in wrongdoing cannot be allowed to “slip out the back door with a pension.”
The VA said it has no legal authority to stop an employee from retiring or prevent a retirement from taking effect before a firing is complete. “When evidence of wrongdoing is discovered, VA will continue to use all authorities at its disposal to hold employees accountable and take action as quickly as legally possible,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday.
Miller said the VA should work with Congress to change any laws or regulations that stand in the way of full accountability for the agency’s officials.
The chairman’s concerns came after two of the agency’s recent firing attempts: One for Taylor and the other for John Goldman, the director of a troubled VA medical center in Georgia.
The VA decided to remove Goldman after confirming that his clinic manipulated scheduling data, but he beat the agency to the punch, retiring last month before the the removal process could begin.
As for Taylor, the Department of Energy offered her a job as its contracting director in late September, days after the VA inspector general released his report about her alleged involvement with contract steering. The Department of Energy rescinded its offer after the watchdog findings emerged.
In a brief interview this month with The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport, Taylor said the inspector general’s report contained “mistakes and inaccuracies.” She added that the VA’s use of FedBid saved taxpayers $65 million over two years, but she declined to comment further.