Saturday, February 27, 2016
VA insists removal of Stratton VA director is valid
ALBANY — Linda Weiss, who until November was director of the Stratton VA Medical Center, won an appeal challenging her removal from that post, according to a final decision of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board released in February.
However, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson is challenging that decision, the Federal Times reports. In a statement released Feb. 17, Gibson said the the decision was not only incorrect, but was filed outside of a 21-day window required for appeals, making the firing valid.
Gibson had removed Weiss, he said, because she did not take timely, appropriate action to ensure that veterans received safe medical care.
Gibson said in the statement sent to VA staff as well as staff on both the House and Senate committees on Veterans Affairs, that the MSPB decision was invalid because it came after a 21-day window required by the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.
“We believe today’s untimely decision is unenforceable under the law, and does not entitle Ms. Weiss to return to VA employment,” he said.
The Albany Times Union recently reported that two male nurses at the Stratton VA hospital had stolen medications meant for veteran patients and another “remained on duty despite complaints from co-workers that he was sleeping on duty, including in the bed of a patient who had died the night before,” along with other claims of veteran abuse by nurses on staff.
Gibson said in his statement that despite evidence that Weiss failed to hold her staff accountable, the MSPB ruled that she should not be fired, a decision the deputy secretary called “troubling from a factual and core values perspective.”
“The [MSPB administrative] judge found that preponderant evidence established that Ms. Weiss failed to take timely action against a nursing assistant who repeatedly abused Veteran patients.
“Moreover, the judge specifically found that Ms. Weiss left the nursing assistant in a patient care role notwithstanding multiple reports that the nursing assistant mistreated the Veterans entrusted to her care. Despite this significant patient safety finding, the judge determined that it was ‘unreasonable’ for VA to remove Ms. Weiss. I could not disagree more.”
Since a series of scandals at the VA came to light, starting in 2014, the agency has struggled to punish executives it deemed accountable, the Federal Times reported. The MSPB has also come under fire for overruling a number of VA discipline actions.