The Female Veteran With Diminished Mental Capacity and the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist

A vocational rehabilitation specialist working with a female veteran with diminished mental capacity was removed after the VA made four charges against him with multiple specifications.

A federal appeals court has sustained the firing of a 17-year employee of the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center. (Mancini v. Department of Veterans Affairs, C.A.F.C. No. 2010-3006 (nonprecedential), 7/21/10) As always, the facts are taken from the court’s opinion.

Mr. Mancini was a vocational rehabilitation specialist when the agency leveled four charges against him supported by multiple specifications, and proposed his removal. While the appeals court tossed out a couple of the specifications, it nevertheless sustained the four charges given the remaining specifications and concluded that removal was not unreasonable.

Here’s the story (leaving out the facts relating to specifications that the court did not sustain).

Apparently Mancini was counseling a female veteran who had diminished mental capacity. When he concluded that she was becoming too sexually aggressive toward male staff members, Mancini arranged for the veteran to be transferred to a female VA counselor. Even though he had made the determination the transfer was necessary, and lined up the new counselor, Mancini failed to complete the transfer. The agency concluded that this constituted neglect of duty.

The next problem Mancini encountered involved his male student intern who had admitted to Mancini that a “friendship” had developed between the intern and the female veteran. Mancini did not intervene while the intern ended up visiting the veteran at her home and became involved with her. The intern confided in Mancini that he and the veteran had become involved. The agency considered this improper supervision of the intern, another example of neglect of duty on Mancini’s part.

To compound his problems, when Mancini gave sworn testimony on two occasions to a board of inquiry on the intern’s relationship with the veteran, he made inconsistent statements. The agency slapped him with a “providing inconsistent statements under oath” charge. (Practitioners will tell you, never stretch the truth or lie under oath.)

A couple of weeks after his second round of testimony before the board of inquiry, Mancini gave the female veteran a ride from the VA premises after-hours on his personal motorcycle. He claimed he did it in order to try to talk her out of buying a motorcycle. The agency used this event to support a charge of “inappropriate conduct.”

As if he wasn’t in enough hot water already, during the investigation, the agency found “inappropriate materials” on Mancini’s computer. Specifically, he had forwarded pornographic images to family members using his government computer. This formed the basis for a “using government computer to transmit inappropriate materials” charge.

The agency removed Mancini, he appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, lost, and took his case to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Yes, the court did throw out a couple of the specifications, but it sustained the ones discussed above, found the four charges had been sustained, and concluded that removal “was not an inappropriate sanction.” (p. 10)

Mr. Mancini’s removal stands.

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.