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:

Jacob Daniel Price (Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office)

An ex-Marine faces premeditated murder charges after admitting to killing his parents and the two family dogs, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

Read More Show Less

My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead

"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."

Opinion

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.

They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.

As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.

But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.

Read More Show Less

Sen. Rick Scott is backing a bipartisan bill that would allow service members to essentially sue the United States government for medical malpractice if they are injured in the care of military doctors.

The measure has already passed the House and it has been introduced in the Senate, where Scott says he will sign on as a co-sponsor.

"As a U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, taking care of our military members, veterans and their families is my top priority," the Florida Republican said in a statement.

Read More Show Less

Little girls everywhere will soon have the chance to play with a set of classic little green Army soldiers that actually reflect the presence of women in the armed forces.

Read More Show Less
Turkish and Russian patrol is seen near the town of Darbasiyah, Syria, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Associated Press/Baderkhan Ahmad)

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia landed attack helicopters and troops at a sprawling air base in northern Syria vacated by U.S. forces, the Russian Defence Ministry's Zvezda TV channel said on Friday.

On Thursday, Zvezda said Russia had set up a helicopter base at an airport in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, a move designed to increase Moscow's control over events on the ground there.

Qamishli is the same city where Syrian citizens pelted U.S. troops and armored vehicles with potatoes after President Donald Trump vowed to pull U.S. troops from Syria.

Read More Show Less