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Watchdog: VA employed thousands without background checks

Watchdog: VA employed thousands without background checks
© Greg Nash

A new watchdog report reveals that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employed thousands of workers at medical facilities without properly performing background checks.

The inspector general (IG) report released Monday faults the VA for employing an estimated 6,200 workers over five years through 2016 who did not undergo background checks within the mandated first 14 days of their employment.

Some of the employees were on the job for years before a proper background check was completed, many with access to personal and private data for America's veterans.

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In one case, a registered nurse was on the job at a VA facility in Ohio for nearly four years before undergoing the review. The number of employees who failed to be examined within the two-week period totals 6 percent of the Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) employees.

Without completed background checks to determine employee suitability, the “VA lacks assurance that the VHA workforce is properly vetted and appropriate for providing health care to the nation’s veterans,” the IG report states.

“In addition, initiating background investigations in a timely manner is critical to mitigate the risk to VHA and ensure that unsuitable staff may be removed during the probationary employment period," it added.

Investigators blamed the backlog on the VA's Operations, Security and Preparedness office, which they say is rife with mismanagement and lack of oversight.

Officials in that office told the IG in a statement included in the report that it hopes to reduce the backlog to 2,500 employees by October.

The IG report comes at a tough time for the department, where news reports claim Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVA inspector general says former top official steered M contract to friend Schumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans Former Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier MORE has become increasingly isolated from top Trump administration appointees and could likely be replaced in upcoming weeks.

Shulkin served as the VA's Under Secretary of Health from 2015 to 2017 under President Obama before being nominated by Trump last year to lead the department.