The Department of Veterans Affairs announced yesterday that it was “forced” by the Merit Systems Protection Board to rehire the director of the Washington, DC medical center who had been previously fired.
The VA fired Brian Hawkins on July 28, however, Hawkins claimed that he was wrongly terminated. The MSPB issued a stay order requiring Hawkins to return to work pending the Office of Special Counsel’s review of Hawkins’ claim that he was wrongly terminated.
The VA said that it has complied with the order and returned Hawkins to work, however, he is working in an administrative position at the VA headquarters in Washington rather than to a patient-care position at the VA Medical Center.
The stay order came one day after the VA Office of Inspector General (VAOIG) issued a new report finding that Hawkins violated VA policy by sending sensitive VA information from his work email to unsecured private email accounts belonging to him and his wife.
The VA fired Hawkins in July after saying he “failed to provide effective leadership at the medical center” and after the investigation revealed he sent the emails to his wife.
The VA said it will “quickly make an assessment” of Hawkins’ employment using the new evidence and also explore its options under the new VA Accountability Act signed into law by President Trump in June.
“No judge who has never run a hospital and never cared for our nation’s Veterans will force me to put an employee back in a position when he allowed the facility to pose potential safety risks to our Veterans,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin. “Protecting our Veterans is my most important responsibility.”
No Quorum at MSPB
According to the MSPB website, there is currently no quorum at the agency. While the MSPB cannot rule on a request to withdraw a petition for review until a quorum is present, it can issue temporary rulings on stays.
As Ralph Smith wrote earlier this year:
A request for the stay of a personnel action by the Office of Special Counsel can be granted or denied for 45-calendar days. This means the remaining Board Member can continue to issue initial stay requests of 45 calendar days. Note that a quorum must be present for the Board to consider the Special Counsel’s request for an extension of an initial stay request.
A copy of the MSPB order is below.