VA ordered to stop posting details online about employee firings and disciplinary action

Veterans Benefits

Winston-Salem VA employees serve North Carolina veterans at a claims clinic.

Department of Veterans Affairs photo via Military.com

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The union representing 260,000 Department of Veterans Affairs employees recently won a "cease and desist" arbitration ruling against the department's posting of lengthy lists of firings, suspensions and other disciplinary actions in violation of the Privacy Act.


The ruling found that the VA was guilty of an "unfair labor practice" against the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) in the website postings of "Adverse Action Reports" that allowed for the easy identification of workers targeted for disciplinary procedures.

In his ruling, Andrew Strongin, an arbitrator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, directed the VA to "remove the AARs from its website and cease and desist publishing the AARs in that or like manner until such time as it achieves compliance with the Privacy Act."

Strongin wrote that the VA began posting the lists in a "public relations" effort to restore its image following the wait times scandals of 2014 but, in the process, "flagrantly disregarded the agency's own General Counsel's advisory opinion and the rights of those employees" who were listed.

The AARs included the type and date of the disciplinary action, as well as the grade, level, position and category of the employees, making them identifiable in violation of the union's contract and their privacy rights, according to the AFGE.

The VA's actions were taken "in a pursuit to shame employees and erode veterans' trust in the VA," AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. said in a statement. "VA leaders should be focusing on improving veterans' access to quality health care at VA facilities, not publicly shaming employees and violating their privacy."

The arbitrator's ruling was handed down in March and announced last week when the decision was finalized, AFGE spokesman Tim Kauffman said.

The AARs were one of the immediate results of the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in June 2017 in what he said was an effort to remove "bad actors" from the VA.

The Accountability Act made it easier for VA management to fire, suspend or otherwise discipline employees. In its first year of operation, it resulted in more than 3,500 actions against workers, according to the VA.

However, the union and several House Democrats, including Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, currently chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, charged that the VA was mostly targeting low-wage custodial, laundry and food service staff while ignoring infractions by supervisors

This article originally appeared on Military.com.

More articles from Military.com:

Dustin A. Peters (Cape May County Sheriff's Office)

A former Marine arrested as he tried to enter the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May with a modified AK-47 rifle, handgun, body armor and ammunition faces federal weapons charges, officials said Friday.

Read More
The United Launch Alliance's Delta IV rocket launches with a Wideband Global SATCOM WGS-10 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Complex 37 on March 15, 2019. The satellite brings enhanced communication capability for command and control of U.S. military forces on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Andrew Satran)

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

The US military's newest service, the Space Force, is only about a month old, having been signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 20.

Read More
(Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial, Inc./Facebook)

Military veterans from throughout Northeast Florida came together Saturday morning to honor comrades in arms who were prisoners of war or missing in action, and remember their sacrifice.

Read More
The remains of Army Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin arrived back to Fort Bragg a week after he was killed Jan. 11 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)

After the plane landed, Pope Army Airfield was silent on Saturday.

A chaplain prayed and a family member sobbed.

Tarah McLaughlin's fingers traced her husband's flag-draped coffin before she pressed two fingers to her lips then pressed her fingers to the coffin.

The remains of Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, arrived back to Fort Bragg a week after he was killed Jan. 11 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, also was killed in the same incident.

Read More

The Space Force has a name tape now

popular

The U.S. Space Force has a name tape for uniforms now. Get excited people.

In a tweet from its official account, the Space Force said its uniform name tapes have "touched down in the Pentagon," sharing a photo of it on the chest of Gen. John W. Raymond, the newly-minted Chief of Space Operations for the new service branch nested in the Department of the Air Force.

Read More