Phoenix Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials hired a woman this year who was recently fired from another VA facility for abusing patients and lying, giving her preference over veterans and other applicants who applied for the job, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
Deloris Judd was fired from the North Chicago VA for numerous incidents of patient abuse. Her union tried to block the firing, but arbitrators found that she also lied during her appeal, and seconded the dismissal in March 2016.
Three months later, she was hired by the Phoenix VA, which claims that, since a major 2014 scandal involving employees lying about patient wait-times, it has turned things around and has no tolerance for such behavior.
The Arizona VA facility hired Judd even though the state of Illinois put a lien on her for unpaid taxes in 2015. And thanks to a union contract and federal hiring policy that favors former federal employees over the public when hiring, the fired ex-fed appears to have been vaulted to the front of the line in front of veterans who wanted the job.
Phoenix put Judd to work on the Choice Card program, TheDCNF learned, an initiative intended by Congress to let VA patients escape long wait-times by going to private doctors. Judd had no experience in the area, and her department is now the worst-performing at Phoenix, trapping patients for months and improperly managing waiting lists.
In Chicago, Judd was repeatedly cited by VA police for her inappropriate behavior. In another case, when her boss asked her to do some work, Judd indignantly called the police on her boss, calling it harassment. In another case, she was suspended for inappropriate behavior with a patient.
That was all before the final incident, in which an elderly woman asked for a printout of her appointments and Judd refused, saying it was not her job. The woman crumpled up the one piece of paper that Judd did give her and laid it on the counter. In response, Judd called the police on the old lady and accused her of threatening her.
The elderly woman burst into tears at the hostility, and Judd did nothing to console her, such as asking a patient advocate or nurse to comfort her, the VA determined.
Judd paced back and forth and tried to intercept the police to give them her version. She was fired after an administrative investigation, and the incident was re-litigated when Judd refused to accept the firing and appealed it in a union hearing. Testimony in all those, including from a nurse and a naval officer, found that Judd lied about being threatened and showed no empathy for the people she was supposed to be caring for.
Asked by TheDCNF why the hiring manager at Phoenix didn’t call a VA colleague in Chicago for a recommendation, consult a central VA human resources file or examine federal employee exit paperwork — or if it did, but hired her anyway — the department issued a rare mea culpa.
“We are changing our culture, which includes acknowledging when we have not lived up to these values in some cases. The hiring process regarding Deloris Judd that took place this summer is regrettable and not as thorough as it should have been,” Phoenix spokeswoman Jessica Jacobsen said.
The just-fired-for-misconduct Judd likely got the job without having to compete against anyone else, potentially cutting in front of veterans who wanted the job. (RELATED: Only VA Job Reserved Specifically For Vets: Janitor)
Usajobs.gov, the official civil service employment web site overseen by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), says “individuals who previously held a career or career-conditional appointment with the federal government may be eligible for reinstatement, which allows reentry to the Federal competitive service workforce without competing with the public.”
According to OPM, “If you were removed for cause from your previous federal employment, it will not necessarily bar you from further federal service. The facts in each case as developed by inquiry or investigation will determine the person’s fitness for re-entry into the competitive service.”
Judd had worked at the North Chicago hospital since April 2007, mostly as a clerk. But Phoenix put her to work in an area in which she had no experience as a voucher examiner for non-VA care — in other words, in charge of the Choice Card.
Congress established the Choice program to let veterans seek services from private doctors when VA could not do so sufficiently quickly. The Choice program was approved over intense opposition by a federal employee union that argued it jeopardized government jobs. But VA managers have also opposed the program, failing to pay private doctors until they refused to see any more veterans.
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