The long, complex saga of the Phoenix VA scandal took another twist on June 7 when the Department of Veterans Affairs fired three executives tied to the patient-wait time controversy that has enveloped the agency for the past two years.

The VA dismissed Lance Robinson, the Phoenix VA’s associate director; Brad Curry, formerly chief of Health Administration Service; and Chief of Staff Dr. Darren Deering for negligent performance of duties and failure to provide effective oversight for not ensuring veterans were either properly scheduled for appointments or placed on an appropriate wait list.

“We have an obligation to veterans and the American people to take appropriate accountability actions as supported by evidence,” said VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson in a statement. “While this process took far too long, the evidence supports these removals and sets the stage for moving forward.”

The trio can still appeal their dismissals. Robinson and Curry will have 30 days to present their appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which will then have 15 days to render a decision.

Deering, whose position is governed under Title 38 statutes, will have 15 days to appeal the dismissal to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald.

The move is another step in a contentious tug of war going on within the VA for accountability and employee rights.

The patient wait-time scandal erupted in the Phoenix VA in April 2014, with the trio being placed on administrative leave a month later while the agency investigated.

They remained on paid leave for almost two years while the VA investigated the incidents. Robinson and Curry were later reinstated to their jobs in January.

The VA has recently experienced a repeated and tumultuous reflux of its efforts to increase accountability with its executives.

The agency fired Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, in November 2014 for misconduct and lack of oversight.

The MSPB later upheld the firing, but Helman could get her job back after Attorney General Loretta Lynch said this month that the Department of Justice wouldn't defend sections of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 that expedited the grievance process and didn't allow for review or appeal of an MSPB ruling.

Helman had sued the government in federal court of the legality of the 2014 accountability law, and Lynch’s decision scored a major victory for employee groups that had decried the measure.

The firings of the other executives may have swung momentum back toward an uneasy alliance of accountability stalwarts in both the VA and Congress, as debate continues on the omnibus reform bill, the Veterans First Act.

“This decision is the right one for veterans and taxpayers,” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs chairman, said in a statement.

Deputy Secretary Gibson is correct in saying the process took ‘far too long.’ That’s why the Senate must follow the House’s lead and act to fix the outright dysfunction inherent in our federal civil service rules, which put the job security of VA bureaucrats ahead of the veterans they are charged with serving.”

Multiple accountability bills have been proposed in Congress, including by Miller and his Senate ally, Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

The Veterans First Act; sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., aims the be the ultimate word on VA accountability but faces an uphill battle from but employee groups and lawmakers who want more stern laws on the books.

But if history provides any proof, this most recent chapter may be far from over.

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