EXCLUSIVE: VA Forced To Take Back Medical Center Director Who Retaliated Against, Demeaned Employees
The Department of Veterans Affairs has been forced to rehire Toby Mathew, the former director of the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport, La., after he was fired due to serious retaliation against his staff.
Screenshots of the VA’s internal database system provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation indicate that Toby Mathew is currently working as associate chief officer at the Office of Disability and Medical Assessment, which is part of VA Central Office and located in Houston, Texas.
The VA confirmed that Mathew has been hired back into the system due to a “flawed and outdated civil service personnel system,” but said that he will not be working at the Shreveport VA. Rather, he will be detailed to the Office of Organizational Excellence. He was rehired on October 15, 2017.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs had to take back Toby Mathew, the former director of the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center who was removed from duty in February of 2017, as a result of a flawed and outdated civil service personnel system that makes it difficult to remove employees for legitimate reasons,” Curt Cashour, press secretary at the VA, told TheDCNF.
“While VA is returning Mathew, he will not assume his previous duties or perform duties at the Overton Brooks Medical Center. He is being assigned to the Office of Organizational Excellence, where among his duties, he will be focusing on the GAO High Risk List improvement initiative,” Cashour added.
Cashour noted that the VA will continue looking into Mathew’s initial dismissal with the new authorities provided by the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law in June.
Mathew was first removed from his position as director of the Overton Brooks VA medical center in Louisiana in February 2017, following a detailed investigation into numerous complaints from employees. He was transferred to a VA job in Mississippi.
An internal VA legal memo from April stated that Mathew was fired on April 13. The memo stated that it was likely Mathew would file an appeal. It appears that his appeal has been successful.
An Office of Accountability Report obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation in July revealed that Mathew engaged in misconduct and mistreated his staff. The OAR was first initiated in October 2016 into Mathew’s leadership at the Overton Brooks VA medical center. According to investigators, Mathew “belittled, demeaned and mistreated VA employees” to such an extent that “the totality of evidence shows that OBVAMC is clouded by a culture of fear.” He also slammed doors and other objects, in addition to engaging in retaliation. He moved an employee’s work station after she revealed to him what others were saying about the work environment.
“You all can cry hostile work environment all you want. Nobody is ever going to believe you,” Mathew said.
Shea Wilkes, whistleblower and social worker at Overton Brooks, told TheDCNF that the VA’s inability to successfully fire Mathew places veterans at risk.
“This recent failure has not only put our Veterans at risk but it has failed its own employees, who like so many before, put their careers and livelihoods at risk to report wrongdoing,” Wilkes said. “While there is a lot of big talk in the political arena about improvements at the VA, those who have been in the fight since the beginning, continue to see the same good ole boys prevailing time and time again despite the continued promises of new beginnings.”
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