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A patient advocate working at a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Atlanta, Georgia has been suspended without pay after physically assaulting a patient. 

“The employee has been indefinitely suspended without pay,” said Terrence Hayes, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “The indefinite suspension is in place and we are unable to comment further as the matter remains under investigation.” 

Phillip Webb, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, was at the Fort McPherson VA clinic on April 28 2022 when he was attacked by Lawrence F. Gaillard Jr., a patient advocate working at the clinic. Webb said he was there to discuss an upcoming hernia surgery appointment and was letting Gaillard know that he was getting up to use the restroom when the assault began. 

On surveillance camera footage obtained by WSB-TV, Gaillard can be seen grabbing and choking Webb, slamming him against a wall, and then throwing him to the ground. Gaillard then kicks Webb repeatedly in the head before leaving the room. 

“He was Mike Tyson-ing me there,” Webb told the news station. “I’m just stunned. I don’t know what to say.”

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While Gaillard was arrested and initially charged with felony assault in the federal court for the northern district of Georgia, he remained employed with the VA at least until June 21, despite a federal provision that allows government agencies to remove or suspend employees when they have “reasonable cause to believe that the employee has committed a crime.”

Commonly known as the “crime provision,” it “authorizes an exception to the 30 days’ advance written notice when the agency has reasonable cause to believe that the employee has committed a crime for which a sentence of imprisonment may be imposed and is proposing a removal or suspension, including indefinite suspension. … This provision may be invoked even in the absence of judicial action.” 

How Gaillard remained employed by the VA for almost two months remains unclear. For now, at least, he is out of the system. 

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