Marine Veteran Stephen McMenamin and his wife, Hanna, were at the Durham VA hospital last week and the photograph they captured has been sweeping the internet and social media.
Stephen and Hanna captured multiple Veterans being mistreated in the Durham VA waiting room. One man (pictured above, left) came into the hospital in extreme pain. His name is Jesse Lee.
After his leg was amputated, he came into the hospital with crippling phantom pains. “It felt like a railroad spike was going through my foot. It’s like one of the worst pains you’ve ever felt in your life,” Lee told a local reporter.
Lee waited hours to be seen by a doctor, despite the fact that he was doubled over in pain. He was groaning and convulsing, so Stephen offered up his wheelchair. Within 15 minutes, a staffer came over to Jesse Lee. Not to help him, mind you, but to scold him for using a wheelchair he wasn’t given.
A second man was caught on camera stretched out on the floor. He came into the VA trembling, in pain, and out of breath. He pleaded with the waiting room staff for a place to lie down while he waited to see a doctor. They completely ignored him. So, he got down on the floor.
A Veteran was forced to lie down on the dirty, hospital floor because the staff refused to help him. When staffers finally came over to him, it appeared like they were going to treat him. Instead, they simply forced him to get off the ground and back into a chair.
President Trump’s new VA Secretary David Shulkin came out this week begging Congress to give him the power to fire horrible staffers. Under the law, he has to give VA employees 30-days notice before firing them and then the union is allowed to step in to save their job, no matter how they mistreated veterans.
In response, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Phil Roe (R-TN) just introduced the VA Accountability First Act of 2017. This legislation would give Secretary Shulkin the power to fire employees who mistreat veterans, like the staff in Durham who ignored their patients.
“If there is evidence that an employee has broken the law, caused harm to veterans, or have violated the public trust, they should be terminated immediately,” Shulkin wrote in an opinion piece this week. “Instead, due to overly cumbersome and lengthy arbitrations as well as extensive bureaucratic red tape, VA has not been able to remove employees as quickly as we would have liked.”
Sec. Shulkin has tried to fire VA staff. He has tried to purge the agency of all the bad apples. Each time, the employee union stepped in and stopped him.
Over the years, the union has pressured Congress to add more and more protections to the law. The result is now even if a VA employee is caught mistreating a Veteran, they must receive 30-days notice of termination. And thanks to a lengthy arbitration process, the union can delay the firing for months. The average appeal length is 281 days.
The VA Accountability First Act would slash this from 30 to 10-days notice and reduce the union’s ability to stall the firing process.
We have been calling for this for years. You have stood by our side and joined us in the fight for VA reform. Now, the hour is at hand.
President Trump made VA reform a pillar of his campaign and nominated a man to lead the agency who is eager to begin firing bad employees.
All that is missing is Congress to give him this power!
I look at the picture above of the veteran hunched over in pain and the other man stretched out on the floor in agony and I can't believe what I'm looking at. I cannot believe it has come to this.
But here’s what really makes me angry. Even if the VA Secretary himself walked into that Durham VA facility and fired the staff that ignored these two veterans, they would be allowed to stay on the job for almost another year and might even win their appeal. The union's appeals process would be financed, in part, with our tax dollars.
Our vets deserve better than this. They deserve a whole lot better than this.
They answered the call to defend you and I. Please, answer the call now and rise up to defend them!
They deserve better,