McCain: VA head must punish employees
© Francis Rivera

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate confirms four Biden ambassadors after delay Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' Grant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 MORE (R-Ariz.) is demanding that Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald hold employees accountable in the wake of a watchdog report that found officials have used their positions for personal gain.  

"It is simply unacceptable that corrupt bureaucrats at the VA continue to abuse their positions and expand the culture of corruption that led to the scandal of gross mismanagement and neglect of our veterans," McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, wrote in a letter to McDonald sent Friday. 

The Arizona Republican sent his letter after the VA Office of Inspector General released a report finding that two VA officials abused their authority "when they participated personally and substantially in creating opportunities for their own transfers to positions they were interested in filling." 

The report adds that the inspector general referred the cases to the U.S. attorney's office in Washington and that a formal decision is still pending on whether or not prosecution is warranted. 

The VA said in a statement that it agreed with IG's recommendations and will "conduct a 30-day review of all incentive and relocation procedures in the Department."

"In addition, VA will consider all the evidence presented by the IG, collect any additional evidence necessary, and take appropriate accountability actions,” the agency said. 

“VA will fully cooperate with other federal agencies as required as we continue our daily effort to improve the timeliness and quality of care and services delivered to our Nation’s Veterans."

McCain's letter isn't the first time lawmakers have shown frustration over a perceived inability of McDonald to hold VA officials accountable. House lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year that would make it easier for the VA secretary to fire an employee. 

But McCain added that under legislation passed last year, McDonald already has the authority to discipline VA employees. 

"Secretary McDonald, when we met in my office to consider your confirmation to be VA Secretary, you assured me that you would clean up the VA," he added. "I urge you to use it and take action immediately to hold personnel accountable for this severe senior leadership failure discovered by the IG." 

Also on Friday, President Obama nominated a new top watchdog, Michael Missal, for the VA. 

Lawmakers have repeatedly called on Obama to nominate a new inspector general, with the previous Senate-approved official stepping down more than a year and a half ago.

- Updated Saturday at 11:38 a.m.