Streamlined VA firing rules might spark new legal challenges

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2017 | Employee Rights

One of the specific targets under the Trump administration’s “drain the swamp” theme is the alleged corruption in the Veterans Affairs department. The VA has been in the crosshairs for several years after discoveries that veterans were dying because of delayed treatments and apparent administrative cover-ups of those delays.

Prompted by complaints that federal employment laws make it too difficult to get rid of bad actors, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law new rules aimed at speeding up the firing process. While the intent of the law is clear, it would be a mistake for workers facing adverse action to think that avenues of appeal have dried up. Change just means that consulting an attorney about your options is more important than ever.

Since Donald Trump took office, nearly 900 VA employees have been fired. Most of those actions took place under the previous rules. That suggests that the pace of action will only increase under the new rules. But as some union officials have noted in reaction to one very high profile case, new legal challenges could be triggered.

The case we are referencing is that of the director of the VA medical center in Washington, D.C. The new administration sought to have him removed for alleged general mismanagement that allowed problems to fester at the facility. Reports said conditions endangered veteran care. He is also alleged to have improperly shared sensitive medical information in emails to his wife.

Action to fire the official began in July, but the Merit Systems Protection Board put it on hold pending its review of a claim of wrongful termination. Late last month, the VA informed the official it intends to press firing him under the rules of the new law, which requires workers to file appeals on a much faster timeline.

At this time, it’s not clear whether the targeted official will exercise appeal options that may be available. What is clear is that he is working with an attorney.