Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary David J. Shulkin gave false information to Congress Tuesday, claiming that a Daily Caller News Foundation post was wrong, only to have department officials be forced to admit shortly afterwards that the story was accurate.
TheDCNF exclusively reported in March that Elizabeth Rivera was reinstated to her VA job, thanks to union rules after she got out of jail on an armed robbery charge and subsequent criminal conviction.
TheDCNF asked department officials about the situation prior to publication and even got a written statement saying that Rivera’s behavior was not sufficient grounds for termination since it occurred in her off hours. Rivera was the driver in a 3 a.m. armed robbery with a career criminal.
In answer to a question from Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Shulkin told the House Veterans Affairs Committee Tuesday that Rivera had been fired:
Huelskamp: What I understand is the VA in Puerto Rico refused to fire a medical center employee who was convicted of crime related to armed robbery and in comments to the media, a VA spokesman apparently suggested it was OK for employees to participate as long as it is in their free time.
Shulkin: Congressman, I am aware of that situation and it is my understanding, and I am very careful I want to give you accurate information so if I misspeak on this I will commit I will get back to you at the end of the day, but it is my understanding that that person is not currently working at the VA in San Juan.
Huelskamp: So on paid leave?
Shulkin: No, that’s not my understanding … they are not an employee of the VA.
Veterans Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller pressed VA on Rivera’s work status in the weeks following TheDCNF’s story, so department officials were likely aware that she remains a government employee. Shulkin claimed to be familiar with the facts of the case but left himself an out, promising to sort out the details later, after the hearing concluded and reporters were no longer present.But in the final seconds of Tuesday’s hearing, Miller, a Florida Republican, returned from outside the hearing room and announced that “I just confirmed with the Caribbean Healthcare System that the individual we were discussing is still on the payroll.”
“Thank you for correcting that,” Shulkin responded.
“Why in the world would someone who has been convicted of armed robbery still be working at Veterans Affairs?” Miller asked.
“Okay. Well, hard for me to answer that right now, so, I think we owe you an answer,” Shulkin replied, apparently stunned.
Also on Tuesday, Shulkin told the committee that a chief of staff who had improperly prescribed controlled substances as favors to friends had been “removed from that role.” But when pressed, he conceded that she was still working at the VA and was now in charge of quality control.
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