Death and corruption at the Veterans Administration

The Veteran Administration maintains a culture of corruption that allows managers to grievously violate rules and laws with little or no punishment.

A Veteran Affairs Inspector General report found that while Jed Fillingim was attending a professional conference in Texas, he drove a government vehicle for personal use after he and two other VA employees had consumed alcohol, and a female companion, Amy Wheat, died after she attempted to exit the vehicle while it was still moving. Local NBC Washington first broke the story last month. Still, Fillingim was hired as a financial manager for the Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) 7 region in Georgia in March 2011.

Fillingim was working as the assistant director of the Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. at the time of the incident, in June 2, 2010. He was allowed to quietly resign in November 2010, even as a federal investigation was still ongoing, according to a VA OIG report of the incident.

American Federation of Government Employees Local 589 President Charles Jenkins, who represents 900 government employees at a number of facilities in Mississippi, strenuously objected in a series of emails to VA leadership in the summer 2011.

“Can someone explain how a VAMC employee (Jed Fillingim) can be directly involved in another VAMC employee’s death (Amy Wheat, RN) which alcohol was involved, inappropriate use of a government vehicle after business hours, leaving the scene of an accident, delay in contacting 911, and Mr. Jed Fillingim is back working for another VAMC,” American Federation of Government Employees Local 589 President Charles Jenkins wrote in an email to VA leadership June 9, 2011.

The recipients included Secretary Eric Shinseki, head of public affairs Robert Petzel, and head of human capital John Sepulveda. Jenkins’ union represents thousands of government employees at a number of facilities in Mississippi.

In those emails, Jenkins compared Fillingim’s case with that of Ben Johnson, a non-management police officer and president of the Alexandria, Miss. VA hospital union. Johnson was suspended without pay after being accused of sexual assault.

“President Ben E. Johnson of local 1972 has been on unpaid suspension because of some unproven allegations he was charged with,” Jenkins wrote in an email from August 6, 2011. Jenkins said Johnson wound up being suspended without pay for about two years before finally being exonerated.

The Daily Caller reached out to Secretary Shinseki and Undersecretary Petzel, but emails went unreturned.

Jenkins said the only individual to respond to his inquiry was George Gray, who was head of the regional VISN 16 office, which oversaw the Jackson VA Medical Center.

“Mr. Jenkins, the difference is Mr. Johnson has been charged with a felony, and that situation has not been resolved, whereas Mr. Fillingim has, to this point, not been charged with anything, by the police,” Gray wrote.

Gray has since retired from the VA.