The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

VA’s worker-morale numbers are in, and they’re bad

VA personnel registered those troubling sentiments this year just as the agency’s record-keeping scandal was unfolding, revealing that VA health clinics nationwide had falsified scheduling data to hide treatment delays and that managers had punished workers who tried to report the inappropriate actions.

The controversy began to emerge in April, and it culminated with the resignation of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki at the end of May. The Office of Personnel Management administered the annual Federal Employee Viewpoints Survey this year between May 6 and June 13.

No federal agencies have publicized their survey results yet, but some have posted them online. OPM is expected to announce the results in November or December.

Only 46 percent of VA respondents this year indicated that they have a high level of respect for the agency’s senior leaders, down nearly four percentage points compared to the previous year.

Additionally, only about 56 percent of employees said senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity, representing a drop of more than five percentage points compared to 2013.

Roughly 64 percent of VA workers said they are satisfied with their jobs, down two percentage points from the year before. And 53 percent said they are content with the agency, also down two percentage points.

Overall, the scores fell in 76 out of 84 measures of worker satisfaction, indicating morale declined virtually across the board.

It’s worth noting that the survey took place before the Senate unanimously confirmed Robert McDonald as VA secretary in late July.

Since taking office, McDonald has toured VA health clinics throughout the country, stressing accountability and reassuring employees that he will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers. He has also moved to terminate at least four executives, using the extended firing authority Congress and President Obama approved this summer in response to the scandal.

Most of the VA’s improved scores came in categories involving work-life programs. Sixty-four percent of employees said they are satisfied with child-care programs, up three percent compared to 2013; while 80 percent indicated they are happy with “alternative work schedules,” representing a roughly 1-percent increase over the previous year.