The Department of Veterans Affairs notified Congress in June that it would no longer enforce a law passed after the 2014 wait-time scandal aimed at quickly firing employees. In fact, it’s almost impossible to fire Veterans Affairs’ employees.
The Law to Fix It Is Ignored
The law reduced the appeals process by firing employees in just three weeks, versus many months, and was designed to root out a perceived culture of corruption at the VA as part of the $16-billion Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
Legal concerns arose along with claims that it was unconstitutional. Loretta Lynch chose to not test the law and it is ignored.
The VA has struggled to fire or reprimand a series of executives charged with misconduct since the scandal.
“It is outrageous and unconscionable that the VA is choosing to blatantly ignore all of the accountability reforms set in place by the Veterans Choice Act,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a released statement.
Non-administrative federal employees are able to appeal to a Merit Systems Protection Board. The administrators demand the same. The law rolled back the appeals process.
Still Another Bill
In September, the House approved a bill to make it easier to fire bad employees. Rep. Miller said reform efforts “are doomed to fail” until the problem of employee accountability is fixed.
“For too long, union bosses, administration officials and their enablers have used every trick in the book to help VA bureaucrats who can’t or won’t do their jobs remain firmly entrenched in the agency’s bureaucracy,” he said.
The bill attempts to get rid of loopholes but the union has lodged strong objections, claiming there aren’t enough protections for employees.
Right now, it’s almost impossible to fire any of them.
Criminal Employees Protected by Other Employees and Unions
Criminals work at the VA. A couple recent firings did lend some encouraging news.
Department of Veteran’s Affairs CEO, DeWayne Hamlin offered an employee $305,000 to quit after she played a role in exposing his drug arrest. He was fired on Inauguration Day.
Hamlin was being investigated for a string of unethical and illegal acts including driving under the influence, diversion of painkillers without a prescription, negligent hiring and attempts to induce fraud against another federal employee and VA whistleblower.
In 2015, Hamlin was also under investigation by Washington Examiner for improper “delegation of authority” where he was paid $179,700 despite being absent from the hospital for 80 days in a one-year period in 2014.
Apparently, being absent from work was not the only problem Hamlin was dealing with in 2014. Florida police caught him sitting in a car smelling of alcohol at 2am. He refused to take a breathalyzer twice. Police then found oxycodone on Hamlin even though he did not have a prescription.
When an employee wouldn’t take a bribe to fire another employee at Hamlin’s behest, bosses told her she would be fired.
The Office of Special Counsel, prodded VA leadership into investigating last year. Up until then, they did nothing.
Hamlin helped clone more just like him. He served as a “coach” at the Leaders Shaping Leaders training session in September. McDonald said the training is the number-one way to shape the agency’s culture.
Another employee Elizabeth Rivera Rivera was finally fired after getting her job back though she was involved in an armed robbery and wearing an ankle bracelet to work.
The VA has numerous felons on staff.
Timm Metrolis continues to work as a medical technician at the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, earning $47,481 a year, despite being a registered sex offender.
He was given a suspended prison sentence in Florida after pleading no contest to charges he sexually molested a minor in 1994.
Metrolis said VA officials knew of his felony when they hired him. “It was listed in my application.”
Another example is Tito Santiago Martinez, a human resources official in charge of hiring and disciplining at the facility. He is a convicted sex offender who said “there’s no children in [the hospital], so they figure I could not harm anyone here.” The employees union uses his status as leverage to keep rank-and-file employees who run into trouble with the law on the job.
Braxton Linton is a high-level manager in charge of buying prosthetics such as hearing aids, often with government-issued credit cards. He was hired just weeks after release from federal prison for stealing $70,000 using credit card info he lifted from his previous employer. He also been arrested on drug charges while working for the VA.
Hiring Known Criminals
In 2011 the hospital also hired a man who had a criminal record for illegal firearms in 2007 who was killed last year in a suspected drug-related shootout. He was carrying his own illegal gun again.
In December, Sen. Jeff Flake introduced a bill requiring the VA to stop hiring felons, and to fire the ones that already work there. The American Federation of Government Employees union has refused to say publicly whether it opposes the bill.
During the Obama administration, eleven sex offenders listed the Detroit VA hospital alone as their work address; some of them were fugitives wanted by local police, but the VA cited employee privacy.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. These are the bosses we are talking about. There are non-administrative criminal employees as well and criminals are employed in other government agencies as well. This is especially true since “ban the box”.
Before he left office, Barack Obama and many of his acolytes like Gov. McAuliffe and Mayor de Blasio instituted “ban the box” which requires hiding a person’s criminal record, at least until the final stages of an interview. It also made it harder to fire them when it should be easier.
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