VA Whistleblower Fired for Third Time, May Lose Home
To say the Veterans Affairs just has some problems would be a bit like saying Venezuela just has some problems. (But yes, their problems are related.) The VA has been embroiled in scandal after scandal, and there's been little sign of improvement since news broke during the Obama administration of veterans dying while waiting for lifesaving treatment.
Much of what we know comes from a handful of whistleblowers. One in particular, Sean Higgins, has been prolific.
Higgins has revealed over 40 cases of waste, fraud, and abuse at the Memphis VA hospital where he works. Its distinction as perhaps the worst VA hospital in the nation comes as a direct result of Higgins and his disclosures.
To say he's not beloved by the institution is an understatement. Maybe that's why they fired him for the third time in June 2017.
The previous two firings were overturned on appeal, which doesn't exactly help the optics on this one. Of course, the VA is doing all it can to make it stick. VA public affairs officer Curt Cashour said: "Higgins was removed in June of last year for disruptive behavior and use of profane language. He also had a history of similar behavior, resulting in at least two previous suspensions of 14 days and 3 days, respectively, so his firing for this pattern of misbehavior was more than warranted, and, frankly, way past due."
That last part doesn't sound like there's a grudge against Higgins at all now, does it?
While the VA is claiming Higgins is being disruptive and has a pattern of such behavior, many of his fellow whistleblowers aren't buying it. They are calling this a case of retaliation. After all, it seems that someone tried to place a bogus restraining order in Higgins' file. This was apparently after failing to get a real one.
All of this seems to reveal a clear pattern of behavior by the VA: it attempts to paint him as unhinged, possibly to undermine his efforts to reveal the truth. Think about it -- why is the VA attacking his character, rather than simply publicizing the accounting that would prove Higgins' claims to be wrong?
While Higgins has successfully appealed two previous firings, this appeal has taken far longer than the 120 days the Merit Systems Protection Board is allocated to reach a decision. There are reasons for the delays, some of which fall on Higgins and his attorneys, but Higgins is now looking at being out on the streets since he can't pay his bills.
The VA is having the exact problems endemic to every government-run health system. As a veteran myself, I've seen so many of the problems. I've seen my fellow veterans deal with delays and setbacks that have them struggling with injuries that should have already been treated.