When the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of the Inspector General accused two senior department executives of gaming internal systems to gain promotions and relocation bonuses, agency leaders responded by demoting, rather than firing, them.
When the employees appealed that action, VA lawyers admitted they mishandled case files and were forced to postpone all punishment against the pair.
Now lawmakers are wondering when or if those executives will face any discipline, in what has become the latest episode in an ongoing saga regarding accountability and reform at VA.
On Wednesday, members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee will grill VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson about "a continued and pervasive lack of accountability for corrupt and incompetent employees," a recurring complaint among lawmakers since the fall of 2014.
That's when Gibson and then-new VA Secretary Bob McDonald promised to repair the department's reputation in the wake of the patient wait-times scandal that forced the resignation of several top leaders.
McDonald has said that more than 300 individuals were subject to disciplinary action for that scheduling manipulation, but Hill staffers say only a few senior executives actually faced firing, and most of them retired without any adverse employment action taken against them.
In the latest scandal, committee members called for the firing of two executives accused of abusing the promotion system, and have blasted McDonald for failing to do so.
VA officials have said only that their internal investigation found cause for demoting the two employees and suspending the department's relocation reimbursement programs.
McDonald and Gibson have said publicly that restoring public faith in the VA will take more than firing employees, and warned that problem workers represent a small percentage of the department's overall workforce.
But last summer, lawmakers passed legislation to speed up the firing of senior executives for incompetence and malfeasance, and have accused VA leaders of reacting too slowly to the issue of problem employees poisoning their workforce.
The hearing will get under way at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday and will be streamed at the committee’s website.