Politics

Feds Prosecuting Fewer Crimes Involving VA Workers Under Trump

Latest data show a 31 percent decline since 2013 in the number of cases taken to court by the Department of Justice

Fewer crimes committed by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employees have been prosecuted since President Donald Trump took office, but the decline began five years ago under his predecessor, according to data made public Monday by a Syracuse University shop that analyzes important government data.

Officials at the VA referred only 17 new prosecutions to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in February 2018, compared to 22 in January 2018, according to case-by-case information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse.

That’s a 17 percent decline in referrals from VA to DOJ, compared to February 2017.

Referrals do not guarantee prosecutions, however, because, while federal departments and agencies send cases to DOJ, it frequently declines to take them to court.

For the first five months of fiscal year 2018 — which began Oct. 1, 2017, and ends Sept. 30, 2018 — there were 132 referrals from the VA, resulting in 106 convictions. Sixty-five of the convictions resulted in no prison time.

The average sentence for those who did get jail time was nine months.

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Related: Worthiest Goal Is No More Veterans Suicides

The VA has more than 337,000 employees, making it the largest federal department, compared to 261,029 for the Department of the Army, the second biggest, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

“Many of these [referrals] were for minor offenses such as disorderly conduct, parking violations, or driving while intoxicated while on VA property. Only nine out of the 132 were for drug offenses, and just two for weapons offenses,” TRAC said.

“There were a total of 80 referrals this year from the Veterans Administration that federal prosecutors declined to prosecute. Insufficient evidence was the most common reason cited for closing these cases without going forward on a prosecution,” the research center added.

Related: Shulkin Says Reforms Will Allow Us to Fire Workers ‘Not Doing Their Jobs’

The VA has been at the center of multiple internal scandals for much of the past decade. Trump made cleaning up the department one of his highest domestic policy priorities and has achieved some notable successes, especially in terms of making it easier for nonperforming employees to be fired.

But Trump either fired his first VA Secretary, David Shulkin, last week or accepted his resignation, and he nominated White House Physician Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral and a combat veteran, as Shulkin’s replacement. (Both are shown above.)

Shulkin came under fire by VA’s inspector general for ethics violations linked to the now-former secretary’s European travel in 2017.

Senior editor Mark Tapscott can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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