Union protections and civil service rules prevent many government agencies from outright firing employees, so in the case of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they are paying 150 employees millions of dollars to quit.
Leigh Bradley, the VA’s top lawyer, claimed that “many” times the settlements didn’t mean money, and only “once in a while” do they involve agreeing to hide the misconduct from future employers. That stands in stark contrast to the current data that Bradley herself provided, which shows that 72 percent of settlements were indeed monetary and that 96 percent required the agency to give the employee a “clean record.”
“We don’t use [clean record agreements] regularly as has been depicted,” she said without explaining how 96 percent is not regularly.
The collective payments to terminated employees totaled $5 million, mostly being paid to employees facing misconduct charges; the money came from budgets that would otherwise be used to help veterans.
The process by which an intended disciplinary action comically morphs into a jackpot for a bad employee follows a predictable pattern. The bad employee–who committed violence against, lied to or generally hurt veterans–files paperwork claiming that the punishment is racially motivated, and the VA pays the employee in question to leave.
The majority of the settlements are in exchange for the accused employees dropping these race-based Equal Employment Opportunity complaints, Bradley told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Wednesday.
The VA gets thousands of formal complaints of discrimination each year, even though its workforce is 70 percent minority. (RELATED: ‘Disadvantaged’ Beverly Hills Fashionista Worked No-Show VA Job, Took Millions From Feds)
“It would seem logical that anytime that VA agrees to pay out damages to employees, that this is at least a tacit admission of guilt on behalf of the Agency,” said committee chairman Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican.
Bradley could not give a single example of a manager being fired for actions causing massive losses to taxpayers. In all but 22 cases, the employee at issue departed in tandem with the settlement.
“I wonder what type of message VA is sending to good employees when they allow bad employees to settle for thousands of dollars, just because it would be too expensive or embarrassing to litigate,” Miller said, railing against VA waste. (RELATED: VA Secretly Paid Exec Who Threatened Whistleblower $86,000 To Quit)
VA leaders admitted at the House hearing that the reason for payments is because there are so many ways for federal employees to file complaints about their jobs, giving employees leverage unparalleled in the private sector.
“I welcome us discussing the streamlining of an overly burdensome due process,” said Mark Takano, the ranking Democrat on the committee, while Bradley said she has “concerns” about proposed laws that would introduce such reforms.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see a frivolous filing of a claim result in a settlement. The nuisance cost is at least $35,000 but it would be helpful to cite examples where you have fought to the bitter end a frivolous lawsuit just to show that you would,” said Republican Ryan Costello, an attorney on the committee.
“As an attorney you do not want to be in a position where you settle everything because that invites more claims,” he said.
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