VA senior adviser forced out amid concerns that he was 'getting paid to sit on his couch': report

A senior adviser at the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) was forced out this week amid staff concerns that he was getting paid to do little to no work, The Washington Post reported. 

Peter O’Rourke's salary was reportedly as high as $161,000, but VA staffers told the Post that his "responsibilities" at the agency were unclear. 


O’Rourke told the Post that he was “available for anything the [VA] secretary asked me to do," admitting that "there were times I didn’t have a lot to do.”

Four sources close to the situation told the Post that O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign aide, rarely came to work at the VA headquarters in D.C. White House officials last week expressed concern that he was getting paid for not working, the sources said.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie reportedly asked O'Rourke to resign on Friday.

“You say you’ve been cleaning up VA, but this guy’s been getting paid to sit on his couch,” Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive and founder of advocacy organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in an interview with the Post.

A VA spokesman did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

O'Rourke told the Post that he is “very supportive of the president and the agenda of the Trump administration” and expressed interest in taking on a new government job. “It doesn’t appear there is a request at this time," he added.

He drew the support of three Mar-a-Lago club members who have come under increasing scrutiny for their influence over VA policies. The trio of men — Ike Perlmutter, Bruce Moskowitz and Marc Sherman — have helped shape policy at the VA, according to emails obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The men were frequently in contact with O'Rourke and held several meetings with him, the Post reported. Multiple VA officials told the newspaper that O'Rourke helped the men gain more influence within the agency.

Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Public health experts raise alarm as coronavirus spreads Overnight Health Care: Senate panel to hold hearing on US coronavirus response | Dems demand Trump withdraw religious provider rule | Trump Medicaid proposal sparks bipartisan backlash MORE (D-Wash.), who serves on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said in a statement that she was concerned about O'Rourke's involvement at the agency.

“The VA’s mission is and always has been to serve veterans, not dole out political favors,” Murray told the Post. “I was deeply concerned by Mr. O’Rourke’s time at VA, where as Acting Secretary he made a number of questionable decisions and personnel changes that were suspect at best.”