The Department of Veterans Affairs is carrying out politically motivated reassignments of career staffers ahead of the confirmation of Trump-appointed Secretary Robert Wilkie, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, demoting more than a dozen long-serving officials because of their perceived political loyalties.
The reassigned workers said they were not given a reason for the move, and others at the department told the Post that they fear the troubled agency will lose institutional knowledge.
A bill passed by Congress in 2017 was intended to make it easier for the VA to oust senior officials accused of serious wrongdoing, but it has in practice led to a mass purge of rank-and-file employees for minor infractions.
Whistleblower advocates and federal worker unions have characterized these purges as part of the Trump administration’s broader effort to politicize the non-partisan civilian workforce. At the VA in particular, this trend has coincided with the ouster of people opposed to the privatization of the public health system that serves millions of U.S. veterans. After President Trump fired VA Secretary David Shulkin in March, Shulkin wrote in a New York Times op-ed: “They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed.”
Organizations that work with VA rank-and-file employees say they see this pattern playing out across the agency.
“They’re moving in people who want to privatize. If you’re opposed to that and you speak up, you’re probably on the chopping table,” Ward Morrow with the American Federation of Government Employees told TPM. “It really is retaliatory, whatever they’re doing.”