Shulkin Must Use New Authority to Fire DC VA Director
Arlington, VA — Yesterday the Department of Affairs (VA) announced that Brian Hawkins, director of the Washington DC VA, is back on the payroll after having been fired for gross misconduct that put veterans’ lives at risk. The VA was forced to take Hawkins 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.
Hawkins was fired after a series of events revealed that he was mismanaging the DC VA so poorly that veterans were in “imminent danger” under his watch. A report from the Inspector General (IG) concluded that over the past three years, there had been 194 reports that patient safety has been compromised because of insufficient equipment at the DC facility. More recently, a new IG report showed that Hawkins violated VA policy by sending sensitive information to unsecured email accounts.
Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) Policy Director Dan Caldwell issued the following statement:
“This situation underscores why VA accountability legislation was so sorely needed. A VA employee was found putting veterans’ lives in imminent danger, and we somehow have an unaccountable government entity telling Secretary Shulkin that the employee should still be retained. Unions have an enormous influence over the Merit Systems Protections Board, which is why it has needlessly slowed down terminations. When veterans’ lives are at risk, there should be no hesitation to fire those responsible. We are glad that Congress finally acted to grant the VA Secretary with the authority to fire bad employees this year and we are also encouraged to hear that Secretary Shulkin plans to use it to terminate Brian Hawkins once and for all.”
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 also increases protections for whistleblowers to help ensure that they are not retaliated against for speaking up about wrongdoings at the department.