VA SES Accountability On Senate Fast Track


Benjamin KrauseThe Department of Veterans Affairs is moving quickly to button up holes in its ability to hold criminal Senior Executive Service (SES) employees accountable.

The SES is a unique layer of useless bureaucrats created by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. These employees serve just below key Presidential appointees and are supposedly top leaders selected for their superb leadership skills.

Or, at least, that is what the mantra says. Most feel SES employees are over entitled bureaucratic roadblocks that gum up governmental systems.

SES is considered by most insiders to be the most insulated and most useless employees within the higher levels of the Federal government that is practically impossible to fire or discipline.


Most recently, VA tried to discipline two SES employees accused of fraudulent and unethical behavior within the agency. Roadblocks within the employment system prevented Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson from taking action.

Now, VA is taking action. The new proposal would strip some of the due process rights these executive employees currently enjoy. Executives in charge of medical centers and other executives would be classified under Title 38.

This change would allow executives like Sloan Gibson to reprimand or terminate these employees without needing a decision from the Merit of Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Instead, presidentially appointed executives would be allowed to discipline lower level executives using abbreviated procedures.

The bill supporting the change is moving quickly through Congress in a bipartisan manner, and at least some version of it appears likely to make it through the process.

One can assume that any future demise of the SES system has none other than Diana Rubens and Kim Graves to thank. American taxpayers were uber pissed about VA’s inability to discipline employees where wrongdoing was confirmed.

The political will to revamp the system finally has enough momentum to stand a chance against such strongholds. How do you think this one will eventually play out?


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  1. Dear R. Krause:

    I do not know what others may think but as for me I think leave all these government Agencies alone and we veterans together with all our fellow Americans who take seriously
    the loss of our Constitutional Rights have to take some quick action to save the little we have left of the freedom and show them we mean business, because our government thinks we are children playing games, we have to show them that we are beyond that stage and get together and impeach these culprits selling us for 30 pieces of silver; and not even that, the Constitution provides for that if anyone does not believe it

    I invite them to read the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence

    Yours for GOD and Country
    Frank P. Calderon


  2. I love my generation we have become so good at talking it out. We have put a stake in the hearts of our for fathers. We talk and talk like old hens and the wonder why nothing ever changes. If all our for fathers did was to talk them selves to death nothing would have changed. There come a time when the talking has to STOP!!. Every veteran that is able to should be out in front of every VA hospital and clink. Then the employees who are for us will hail us as hero:s once again and we will get the attention this problem requires.If any group has a just cause to protest [PEACEFULLY} it is the veteran and it is not UnAmerican to do such a thing.If you wont to give a voice to the veterans of today and of tomorrow, AND NOT LET THE WASHINGTON INSIDERS DO THE TALKING FOR US ANYMORE. THEN LETS DO THIS OR SIT BACK AND CLUCK LIKE OLD HENS.

    1. My PCP is a doc from the Far East whose online profile complains about him handing out religion, like he did to me. The current Chief of .staff is from Kenya. The nurse who took my blood pressure had trouble with english and I am sure she was Phillipino. The kiosk st my clinic is the only thing that is native to Oregon. My shrink is fresh from retirement after successful treatment for alcoholism, and a permanent mark on her record.

      My friend, not one person in that crew I just mentioned gives a shit about hailing you or I for anything. At least one of those mentioned hails from a Muslim land. He aint gonna be waiving our flag anytime soon for the veterans my brother. What he will do is assign police with guns to point them at you and tell you to leave. Its called the DBC, and they do not hail heros, and they are Senior Staff (SS). They answer to nobody.

  3. I would like to see a lot more veterans Running the VA system And I’m not talking janitorial positions It’s time

    1. I agree in theory only; if a military organization like the USN medical corps was tasked with the mission then without any doubt here would not be a need for this forum. Active duty vets should be running the show if indeed we still want this soap opera. Reality? We already have substantial medical assets in place for all vets in the community. Our nation no longer needs VHA. We have a disability procedure in place also. VBA is unnecessary. VA must go.

  4. I have a stack of evidence that proves Indianapolis VBA Director Michael Stephens broke the law. And, thanks to Rep. Lee Zeldin, Sloan Gibson is personally aware of all of it and cannot deny his knowledge.

    Want to see if this new law is a sham? Wait until it passes and see if Stephens is seen walking down the sidewalk with a box of personal items and two cops by his side.

    If he isn’t nothing has changed.

    1. @Robin Mitchell,
      Do you actually believe anything will happen? McDonald and Gibson have already shown their true colors by not standing tall for veterans or the taxpayers!
      Sorry if I’m so negative. Only, with all the corrupt cronyism of the Washington beauracrats, there’s not much trust left in me!


      On a side note:
      I’ve read today, and confirmed, where, “Black Lives Matters”, “Moveon . org” (a Soros backed organization), “Bernie Sanders groups” and other “disruptive individuals”, (many who have caused BILLIONS of $$$$ damage over the past few years), are “Planning (VIOLENT) Protests” on 19 March, this saturday, and on 2 April.

      The one for this saturday is to force Mr. Trump out of the Presidential Race. They are going to “Trump Tower!”

      The 2nd of April “protest” is scheduled to begin at the “Liberty Hall” in Philadelphia. And then march the 120 miles to Washington for a alleged “sit in!”
      According to their websites, thousands have signed up.
      The “leader” of BLM, has stated, (through tweets), “This isn’t your grandmothers civil rights movement!” He has admitted the condoning of violence.

      1. P.S.
        At the end of the TV show, “Hill Street Blues”. The sergeant would say to his “precinct officers” – “BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!”
        So, be careful out there! It’s going to get ugly, in my opinion!

      2. I have the evidence. And, part of it is ignoring laws put in place to not have national Security Secrets get out. And, so far both Stephens and Gibson have ignored that and worse have made no changes to make sure it doesn’t keep happening.

        The proof will be the law. Since we know one corrupt VBA Director we can watch him closely to make sure he is asking so you want fries with that and not wrecking veterans lives.,

  5. Speaks volumes that high level Administrators within the VA would be so well-protected owing to their due process rights,—where veterans anonymously accused of “disruptive behavior” by the VHA have NO due process rights whatsoever…

  6. This is just the falling alart phase of the VHA Dynastic cycle. Perhaps SES represents the bloated and corrupt elite within any dynasty that ultimately leads to collapse. However, it is obvious to me that those who remain represent the foxes that avoided the farmer and are therefor the wisest and best at plucking the chickens from their roost. Be wary of the smokescreen. When VHA is terminated we are safe from these predators, not before.

  7. I have no problem with this bill IF the Congress passes a provision in this bill that protects whistleblowers. You know for sure that if Senior (especially political appointees) Level Employees are left unchecked, any whistleblower is an automatic termination.

  8. Question;
    Do SES’ers have lobbyists? Or some “group of people”, ie; attorneys, unions etc., which protects them? I know the MSPB protects them. At least that’s what it seems like. Or, is McDonald and Gibson protecting them from litigation and prosecutions? I’m unfamiliar with individuals this high up in VA!

    1. SES is not part of the AFGE. It is the level of VA Regional Office Directors and above.

  9. “27 NEWS EXCLUSIVE: WI Medical Exam Board suspends license of former Tomah VA chief of staff”


    Although I commend the WI Medical Exam Board for their actions in suspending the License of Dr. Houlihan, (aka. The Candy Man), an examination of the facts surrounding the death of Marine Corp Veteran Jason Simcakoski do call for an investigation for intentional homicide.

    Congressional hearings on the Jason death show that in fact he had been in contact with the FBI regarding his care at the facility in Tomah shortly before his death. Also that the Veterans family was in close contact with Jason and were in fact in preparations to go to the Tomah facility to intervene on Jason’s behalf when they were notified that he had stopped breathing.

    Add to that the high levels of Tramadol in that were found in Jason during the autopsy performed after his death. Dr. Houlihan had full knowledge of the consequences of use of Tramadol as demonstrated by his paper published on the subject prior to Jason’s death. Dr. Houlihan knew what he was doing.

    Also It is clear that there is an outstanding amount of published articles on the subject on the risk death associated with prescribing Tramadol to patients on other medications. All published prior to Dr. Houlihan prescribing Tramadol to Jason.

    Serotonin syndrome resulting from coadministration of tramadol, venlafaxine, and mirtazapine. Houlihan DJ. Ann Pharmacother. 2004 Mar;38(3):411-3. Epub 2004 Jan 23.
    PMID: 14970364

    Fatal hepatic failure following accidental tramadol overdose.
    Loughrey MB, Loughrey CM, Johnston S, O’Rourke D.
    Forensic Sci Int. 2003 Jul 8;134(2-3):232-3.
    PMID: 12850423

    Fatal intoxication due to tramadol alone: case report and review of the literature.
    De Decker K, Cordonnier J, Jacobs W, Coucke V, Schepens P, Jorens PG.
    Forensic Sci Int. 2008 Feb 25;175(1):79-82. Epub 2007 Sep 17. Review.
    PMID: 17875377

    Fatality due to ingestion of tramadol alone.
    Musshoff F, Madea B.
    Forensic Sci Int. 2001 Feb 15;116(2-3):197-9.
    PMID: 11182272

    Lethal combination of tramadol and multiple drugs affecting serotonin.
    Ripple MG, Pestaner JP, Levine BS, Smialek JE.
    Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2000 Dec;21(4):370-4. Review.
    PMID: 11111800

    Avoiding serotonin syndrome: the nature of the interaction between tramadol and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
    Nelson EM, Philbrick AM. Ann Pharmacother. 2012 Dec;46(12):1712-6. doi: 10.1345/aph.1Q748. Epub 2012 Dec 4. Review.
    PMID: 23212934

    Severe serotonin toxicity and manic switch induced by combined use of tramadol and paroxetine. John AP, Koloth R.
    Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2007 Feb;41(2):192-3. No abstract available.
    PMID: 17484083

    Serotonin syndrome with tramadol and citalopram.
    Mahlberg R, Kunz D, Sasse J, Kirchheiner J.
    Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Jun;161(6):1129. No abstract available.
    PMID: 15169709

    Serotonin syndrome secondary to tramadol and citalopram.
    Peacock LE, Wright F.
    Age Ageing. 2011 Jul;40(4):528. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afr017. Epub 2011 Mar 16. No abstract available.
    PMID: 21414947

    Serotonin syndrome attributed to tramadol addition to paroxetine therapy.
    Egberts AC, ter Borgh J, Brodie-Meijer CC.
    Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 1997 May;12(3):181-2. No abstract available.
    PMID: 9248876

    Possible serotonin syndrome associated with tramadol and sertraline coadministration.
    Mason BJ, Blackburn KH.
    Ann Pharmacother. 1997 Feb;31(2):175-7.
    PMID: 9034418

    Tramadol precipitating serotonin syndrome in a patient on antidepressants.
    Shahani L.
    J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2012 Fall;24(4):E52. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.11110343. No abstract available. PMID: 23224488

    Tramadol-induced apnea.
    Hassanian-Moghaddam H, Farajidana H, Sarjami S, Owliaey H.
    Am J Emerg Med. 2013 Jan;31(1):26-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2012.05.013. Epub 2012 Jul 16.
    PMID: 22809771

    Tramadol-induced seizures and trauma.
    Farajidana H, Hassanian-Moghaddam H, Zamani N, Sanaei-Zadeh H.
    Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Mar;16 Suppl 1:34-7.

    [Possible serotonergic syndrome caused by combination of tramadol and sertraline in an elderly woman]. Sauget D, Franco PS, Amaniou M, Mazere J, Dantoine T.
    Therapie. 2002 May-Jun;57(3):309-10. French. No abstract available.
    PMID: 12422548

    Mania and tramadol-fluoxetine combination.
    Gonzalez-Pinto A, Imaz H, De Heredia JL, Gutierrez M, Micó JA.
    Am J Psychiatry. 2001 Jun;158(6):964-5. No abstract available.
    PMID: 11384912

    [Convulsive crisis in Tramadol and caffeine abusers: about 8 cases and review of the literature]. Maiga DD, Seyni H, Sidikou A, Azouma A.
    Pan Afr Med J. 2012;13:24. Epub 2012 Oct 3. Review. French. No abstract available.
    PMID: 23308329

    The risk of seizures associated with tramadol.
    Jick H, Derby LE, Vasilakis C, Fife D.
    Pharmacotherapy. 1998 May-Jun;18(3):607-11.
    PMID: 9620111

    Tramadol and seizures: a surveillance study in a managed care population.
    Gardner JS, Blough D, Drinkard CR, Shatin D, Anderson G, Graham D, Alderfer R.
    Pharmacotherapy. 2000 Dec;20(12):1423-31.
    PMID: 11130214

  10. It’s hard to say. By placing them under Title 38, what good would that produce? I don’t know. Would that produce union protection for SES executives? If it does then this is indeed a horse and pony show!

    1. @Ron Nesler,
      Google the following from;

      “The Daily Caller News Foundation”

      title of article is;

      “Top VA Hospital Bosses Would See Pay Doubled Under Proposal to Congress”
      by Luke Rosiak
      dated: 3/13/2016

      The article explains in detail what will happen if this proposal goes through! Evidently it ain’t B/S!

      1. The pay increases are unfortunately more than likely the motivator in this “deal”, if passed and my fear is this is not even a used, water-logged Band-Aid to actually HELP **Veterans**.
        This reads and smells all about management.
        Are we not still in Budget Sequestration? No pay increases for Disabled Veterans or those on Social Security BUT they want to DOUBLE the salaries of these fraudsters?

        Maybe there’s much more to it and Veteran’s Healthcare would be improved but like I said, this is yet another wait and see situation. We have solid evidence and reason to not automatically trust this as being a benefit to Veterans.

        Where’s Senator McCain on this? Asleep at the wheel?

  11. “Board suspends medical license of ex-Tomah VA chief of staff”


    1. Notice it didn’t say how long the suspension was for? At least it is a step if the right direction. Every veteran mistreated by a physician should make a formal complaint to the state licensing board where they hold their license.

      If, every time a vet had a real issue if he would send a complaint to the licensing board, and a copy of the complaint, along with a cover letter to the director of the VA where the physician is practicing, the VAOIG, the vet’s congressman and senator and the Chairman of the HVAC, I would bet we could get something really meaningful going. Can you imagine hundreds of veterans gumming up the system like this in an organized fashion? We should also have a clearing house so we know how many are complaining, the progress and the disposition of cases.

      1. Hey Dan F

        Regarding your questions on the Dr. David Houlihan I posted a link in another post above to a more informative article which includes a video interview with the Candy Man. It is about 8 minutes long and worth watching. The article is at:

        “27 NEWS EXCLUSIVE: WI Medical Exam Board suspends license of former Tomah VA chief of staff”


    2. Good to see as a first step. It would be better to see why they decided to suspend rather than revoke.
      Either way, it is a mark on his record, unless he managed some kind of deal to expunge the record.

    3. If you look up the article at WKOW, the board admits they took no action until he set up his private practice in LaCrosse as mentioned here before.
      That article also says Houlihan has an appeal hearing on April 11th appealing his firing from the VA.
      Houlihan argues in the article the state rushed to judgement due to political pressure instead of paying attention to the IG report exhonerating him.
      Civilians mattered. Dead veterans not so much.
      I like Dan ‘s suggestion of complaining to state medical licensing boards, but I believe it would be for nothing unless those copies in the complaint forced action.
      I believe Congress needs to pass legislation requiring all VA medical providers to follow the laws in the state they are practicing in.

      1. Not sure if the Med board had the case scheduled for review, but I do believe Jason’s family had something to do with the recent actions of the board.

        “Marine’s family speaks out against former Tomah VA doctor”


      2. 91Veteran,

        According to the paperwork filed with the Medical Board the emergency request for suspension of license was filed March 14th, 2016 by the prosecuting attorney Yolanda McGowan. Ms. McGowan did an excellent job by the way.

        So clearly it was in response to the family speaking out about the Candy Man going back into business.

        The minutes from the hearing and evidence submitted can be found at a link provided by the Channel 27 New Teams Greg Neumann at:


        After reading the evidence that was submitted and seeing the full list of the drugs Jason was prescribed it is clear he was trying to hard to kill him using a method he had used before in Iowa when he was being investigated.

        There he prescribed the patient a combination of drugs called “California rocket fuel” and then added Tramadol.

        His published research paper on the patient in Iowa makes it profoundly clear he knew what he was doing when he killed Jason. The evidence shows that he was about to loss his job at Candy Land and that Jason’s contacting the FBI and making waves was about to cost him his job.

        In this case I think that Both Veterans and Civilians owe a debt of gratitude to Jason Simcakoski, the Simcakoski Family and Yolanda McGowan. They have certainly saved lives by their actions.

        Also the term, “California rocket fuel”, is a slang term created by the psychiatric community (and some medical professionals) that refers to a combined treatment with Remeron (Mirtazapine) and Effexor (Venlafaxine).


  12. The phrase ” presidentially appointed executives would be allowed to discipline lower level executives using abbreviated procedures.” is what concerns me.

    Had the VA followed proper procedure Diana Rubens, Kim Graves and others would have both been fired but the VA sandbagged the firing.

    What they are doing now is going to make the VA even less safe for Veterans!

  13. Let’s just say this is finally moving in the right direction *but* it really depends on how Sloan Gibson has decided to ‘redefine’ accountability.

    The jury is still out with my brain as far as this being just a political chess move and horse and pony show.

    I want to believe. The VA is literally the U.S. Government’s ‘X-Files’.

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