Judicial Board To VA: Firing Scandal-Ridden Exec Is Too Harsh A Punishment

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Merit Systems Protection Board just released its decision indicating why scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs executive Linda Weiss was able to keep her job: firing was simply too harsh of a measure.

While the final decision of the MSPB was already clear, the quasi-judicial agency issued the full text of the decision Tuesday, which showed the justification the Chief Administrative Judge Arthur S. Joseph used to save her employment with the VA.

Interestingly, Weiss, who previously served as head of the Albany Stratton VA medical center, didn’t even deem it necessary to hire a lawyer to win. She simply represented herself and scored a favorable outcome from a board known for letting VA executives off without punishment, notably VA executives Diana Rubens and Kimberly Graves.

One of the examples highlighted by the board of mismanagement stemmed back to 2011 when nursing assistant Marilee Sweet was slated for removal on charges of physically and verbally abusing a veteran. Weiss, who was the final arbiter, did not find evidence of any physical abuse but upheld the allegations of verbal abuse. The punishment? Weiss decided that instead of removal, Sweet should only have to undergo a one-day suspension.

Sweet served her one-day suspension and then came back on the job. Weiss even gave her a performance rating of “Excellent” from the period of October 2012 to September 2013.

But the trouble didn’t stop there. In 2014, a veteran alleged that Sweet had struck him and also threatened him, a continuation of a familiar theme. This time around, the VA took Sweet off nursing duties and relegated her to the kitchen. More complaints surfaced, but Weiss consistently refused to issue any serious punishment.

“The appellant herself recognized there were issues as to whether Ms. Sweet was suitable to perform nursing assistant duties involving direct care. Nevertheless, Ms. Sweet independently performed patient care duties for several more months,” the board wrote in its decision. “Although the appellant may have devoted efforts to reassigning Ms. Sweet, she failed to exercise proper oversight or monitoring in the interim. It appears that she did not make any inquiry to confirm whether Ms. Sweet’s duties remained limited while the reassignment action was processed.”

Weiss’ response to the board’s damning findings amounted to a claim the VA was retaliating against her for trying to accommodate Sweet. However, the board systematically struck down every single one of her defenses, that is, until the board examined the severity of the charge alleged by the department.

“To that end, while I find that the agency proved its charge, I do not find that the evidence the agency presented supports the severity alleged…In other words, the agency proved that the appellant should have done more, but the appellant proved that her actions were not as egregious as the agency suggests,” the decision read.

Gibson already confirmed that Weiss will not be returning as director of the Albany Stratton VA medical center, and also added that she will not serve as director of any other medical center.

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