Politics

EXCLUSIVE: Disabled Veterans Report Discrimination, Targeting At Export-Import Bank

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

Disabled veterans working at the Export-Import bank are reporting that management is trying hard to oust them from the agency.

Two disabled veterans at the Trade Credit Insurance Division of the Export-Import bank say that management is forcing them to move to the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and increasing their working hours, despite the fact that they suffer from debilitating medical conditions.

Another disabled veteran has reportedly been systematically passed over for a promotion and is now locked in a lawsuit with Ex-Im, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

Laurie Evans, a 60-year-old disabled veteran who has served at Ex-Im for 16 years and received a performance review of “Excellent,” spoke with TheDCNF about management’s decision to turn the teleworking arrangement on its head for herself and another disabled veteran.

As to why she feels Ex-Im is trying to drum disabled vets out of the agency, Evans told TheDCNF that “Ex-Im is often considered for elimination as a government agency, with some functions having been proposed to be subsumed under other government agencies such as Commerce or International Trade Agency.”

Trump is believed to be preparing an announcement shortly regarding the future of Ex-Im.

“My feeling is that they are trying to reduce the disabled veterans so that they will not have to pay the higher-graded workforce (all of those disabled are GS-13’s),” she added. “Ex-Im has begun recruiting and possibly hiring GS-7’s to do the same work that we do, whereas previously, the lowest grade was GS-9. Additionally, disabled veterans are not subject to [reduction in force].”

Evans currently works as a GS-13 employee and told her supervisor in 2000 of her medical condition when she was first hired.

That medical condition hasn’t ever been an issue—until now.

Up until now, she’s worked approximately 30 hours a week and was approved to work remotely from Virginia Beach in 2013. Due to her condition, her days are shorter — about six-and-a-half hours a day, she finds time to lie down and recover from an auto-immune condition affecting her spine.

But in September 2016, management told Evans that she would have to work two days a week in D.C., beginning in February and could still telework for two days in Virginia Beach.

In January, Evans put in a request for the above schedule, but management then said that in order for her to telework, she would have to come to D.C. first and put in a request, despite the fact that none of her co-workers has had to come in personally to request a teleworking arrangement.

Her new schedule handed down from management is to work 32 hours a week for eight hours a day over a four-day work week, which wouldn’t allow her time to recover during the day.

Dario Avello is the second disabled veteran caught up in the debacle. He has teleworked full-time from Miami, Fl., for five years.

He’s now 70 and undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. He also has a disabled child and is the sole caregiver.

Unlike Evans, Avello’s teleworking arrangement was revoked altogether, which means he will have to relocate to D.C., leaving his disabled child behind.

He’s already now arrived in D.C. and is renting a room before he starts on Feb. 21.

“In my case, it’s a little more egregious because they asked me to permanently change my duty station after almost eleven years,” Avello told TheDCNF. “I am in the D.C. area but without my family. I would not believe it but it looks somewhat mysterious how they changed my place of work after so many years of service. It was ‘accept the transfer or you do not have a job.'”

While of course management does have the right to terminate telework arrangements, they are not allowed to do so by targeting a specific category of employee—for example related to age or disability, which veterans think may be at play here.

Evans has appealed to management regarding relocation, citing family and medical situations.

However, the Vice President of Trade Finance and Insurance Annette Maresh denied the request.

The disabled veterans think that age discrimination is playing a strong factor. Avello is 70 and Evans is 60.

They are the only three disabled veterans in their department.

Ex-Im was mum on the topic.

“Due to Privacy Act considerations, EXIM Bank does not comment on internal personnel matters,” Caroline Scullin, senior vice president in the office of communications at Ex-Im, told TheDCNF.

This isn’t the first time Ex-Im has run into trouble regarding disabled veterans. In May 2016, Ex-Im was accused of illegally turfing applications for employment from veterans interested in IT positions.

After TheDCNF’s query to Ex-Im went through, Evans was granted a temporary reprieve until March 6.

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