Embattled DC VA Director Retained Amid Growing Scandals
Arlington, VA – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has retained the embattled former head of the Washington, DC VA Medical Center, Bryan Hawkins, moving him to a position within the VA headquarters despite the major scandals that occurred under his watch.
Last month, the IG issued a rare preliminary report stating that veterans at the DC VA were in “imminent danger” under Hawkins’ watch. The report concluded that over the past three years, there had been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment at the facility. Hawkins was removed from his position almost immediately.
The news of Hawkins’ retention comes on the heels of a developing story involving the body of a missing veteran being found in the parking lot of the DC VA Medical Center after a relative had reported him missing following his appointment at the facility three day earlier.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“It is nearly impossible to remove bad VA employees who engage in negligence or misconduct, even to the extent that Mr. Hawkins did. A government employee who puts veterans in imminent danger obviously should not remain on the VA payroll, but Secretary Shulkin’s hands are tied. Next week, Congress will have the opportunity to act on a bill — the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 — that would finally give the VA Secretary the authority he needs to hold bad employees accountable. We urge Congress to move quickly to pass this bill, as veteran lives clearly hang in the balance.”
Next week, the Senate will vote on the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. The bill recently passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with strong bipartisan support and a similar version of the bill passed in the House earlier this year.
The VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act will reduce the time it takes to fire bad employees at the VA, give Secretary Shulkin the ability to recoup bonuses awarded to employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct, and reduce the pensions of VA employees found guilty of felonies related to their employment at the VA. The bill ensures that VA employees who are terminated will not remain on the VA payroll while appealing their terminations. The bill will also increase protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that they are not retaliated against for speaking up about wrongdoings at the department.