Firing of DC VA Director Shows Accountability Reforms Are Working
Arlington, VA – Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the firing of Brian Hawkins, the former director of the Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center. In April, the IG issued a rare preliminary report alleging that veterans at the DC VA were in “imminent danger” under Hawkins’ watch. Hawkins was removed from his position almost immediately but was retained to a position within VA headquarters.
Hawkins was fired in July, but the VA was forced to take him back under the direction of the Merit Systems Protections Board (MSPB), an entity which was needlessly empowered with termination authority prior to the passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this year.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“We are relieved to see that Brian Hawkins has finally been terminated from his position at the VA. VA employees must be held accountable for their actions. This decision demonstrates the positive impact the accountability reforms passed earlier this year are bringing to the department. Fixing the toxic culture that exists within the VA will require accountability, and today’s decision shows that the VA is able to hold employees responsible for their actions. We urge the VA to continue to use its authority to build a culture of accountability within the department.”
Earlier this year, President Trump signed into law the bipartisan VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. The bill reduces the time it takes to fire bad employees at the VA, gives Secretary Shulkin the ability to recoup bonuses awarded to employees who are found to have engaged in misconduct, and reduces the pensions of VA employees found guilty of felonies related to their employment at the VA. The measure also ensures that VA employees who are terminated will not remain on the VA payroll while appealing their terminations. The bill increases protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that they are not retaliated against for speaking up about wrongdoings at the department.
CVA was the leading veterans group pushing for accountability reform at the VA since the group was founded in 2012. CVA ran a national grassroots campaign urging elected officials to support the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 via hundreds of thousands of activist calls and emails, as well as targeted web ads and local events across the country.