» VA Pushes for Accountability Legislation after Delayed Firing of Porn-watching Worker

VA Pushes for Accountability Legislation after Delayed Firing of Porn-watching Worker

San Francisco, CA (Law Firm Newswire) May 17, 2017 – Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin is using the agency’s recent inability to fire an employee for misconduct to demonstrate why the lengthy process for disciplining problem workers needs to be changed. According to VA officials, an employee at the Michael DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston, Texas, was caught watching pornography while he was tending to a patient.

The VA removed the unnamed employee from patient care and placed him on administrative duties. However, the worker could not be fired due to the nature of the appeals process. VA officials said federal law has forced the agency to continue paying him for at least one month.

“Current regulations force the VA to keep employees even if they are not acting in the best interests of veterans,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “Enhancing accountability measures at the agency is a step in the right direction. Doing so will ensure more time and energy is dedicated to improving the lives of veterans rather than dealing with problem workers.”

Under current law, the VA is required to give employees 30 days’ notice of their removal. The agency must continue to pay employees who are in the process of being removed. During this time employees can make preparations to appeal the disciplinary action they are facing.

The VA said it is working with Congress to change legislation so that the agency can expedite the firing process while still preserving an employee’s right to due process. Shulkin is asking for quick action and more disciplinary power. He cited the case of the porn-watching employee to show why it is necessary for the VA to be able to speed up the process for demoting, suspending or firing problem employees.

“This is an example of why we need accountability legislation as soon as possible,” said Shulkin in a statement. “It’s unacceptable that VA has to wait 30 days to act on a proposed removal … I look forward to working with both the Senate and the House to ensure final legislation gives us the flexibility we need.”

On March 16 the House passed a bill that reduces the advance written notice period from 30 days to 10 days. The 2017 VA Accountability First Act would also shorten the appeals process for employees accused of misconduct and allow the VA Secretary greater flexibility to take disciplinary action.

Veterans organizations have generally supported the legislation as a way to increase VA accountability. However, it has faced criticism from the American Federation of Government Employees, a federal union that represents VA employees. Union officials said the bill disregards employees’ due process rights.

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