Right Hooks

Is the VA Swamp Finally Draining?

Two tarnished employees are given the boot.

Jordan Candler · Jan. 26, 2017

The Department of Veterans Affairs is now under the leadership of David Shulkin, who, barring something unexpected, will formally be confirmed by the Senate in short order. To say Shulkin’s former boss, Robert McDonald, left a mess is an understatement. Aside from Barack Obama’s IRS and Justice Department, the VA is perhaps the most corrupt agency in the federal government.

The problems there metastasized when the Obama administration failed to clean house amid clear evidence of myriad scandals. So it’s understandable that whistleblowers and vets view Shulkin, who is being promoted from the title of undersecretary, as an insider insufficient for the job of draining the swamp. However, two recent firings provide reason for optimism.

The now-former head of the Puerto Rico VA, DeWayne Hamlin, and an underling, Elizabeth Rivera, were just permanently axed from the agency. Both have tarnished backgrounds — Hamlin for blackmail and Rivera for armed robbery. Rivera’s termination is a little surprising considering Shulkin came to her defense last year. However, additional evidence of wrongdoing has emerged, which leads Ed Morrissey to speculate, “Perhaps that and Hamlin’s termination are just happy coincidences, or perhaps Shulkin just feels a lot less constrained by federal law than he did last year.”

In any case, the two are finally gone — as they should be. But the swamp is big, and it’s full of alligators. You have to start somewhere, though, and these firings are a good place to start. The VA has waited long enough to shake things up. Let’s hope this is a precursor of things to come. Our warriors deserve better.


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