Try­ing to Fire Bad VA Em­ploy­ees

The Weekly Vista - - Fun & Games - by Freddy Groves

The Depart­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs doesn’t typ­i­cally air its dirty laun­dry in pub­lic, but a re­cent press re­lease in­cluded the head­line “MSPB forces VA to take back fired of­fi­cial” — just when we thought they were able to un­load bad em­ploy­ees.

In April 2017, the di­rec­tor of a VA med­i­cal cen­ter was de­moted. The cen­ter kept run­ning out of crit­i­cal sup­plies be­cause it had no in­ven­tory sys­tem, and the sur­gi­cal sup­plies they did have were fre­quently kept in dirty stor­age ar­eas. The VA Of­fice of the In­spec­tor Gen­eral re­port used the phrase “the high­est level of chaos.” In three years there had been over 190 re­ports of com­pro­mised pa­tient safety. Mul­ti­ple se­ri­ous surg­eries had to be can­celed due to lack of equip­ment. In short, the place was a mess. The VA de­moted the med­i­cal di­rec­tor within hours.

In June, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed the VA Ac­count­abil­ity Act, which speeds the process of get­ting rid of rot­ten em­ploy­ees.

En­ter the VAOIG, which found an­other rea­son to fire the guy: As part of yet an­other in­ves­ti­ga­tion of this em­ployee, it dis­cov­ered he had been send­ing VA emails to his per­sonal ac­counts as well as to his wife, emails that con­tained sen­si­tive per­son­nel info as far back as 2012. He re­fused to give her email ad­dress, claim­ing spousal priv­i­lege (which didn’t stop the VAOIG from find­ing it, of course). The guy was fired.

One day later, the Merit Sys­tems Pro­tec­tion Board is­sued a stay or­der: The VA couldn’t fire the guy un­til the MSPB waded through his claim of a wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion. The for­mer di­rec­tor is back at work, on the pay­roll, but in a role that keeps him away from pa­tient care. The Of­fice of Spe­cial Coun­sel will as­sess the in­for­ma­tion in light of the act the pres­i­dent signed in June.

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