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Trump Fired A Corrupt VA Official. Then The VA Stepped In And Said Not So Fast

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A notoriously corrupt Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) manager fired in the first day of President Donald Trump’s presidency — to rousing acclaim from veterans who heralded it as a sign of lasting reform — has been returned to work by VA officials after he filed a civil-service protections appeal.

The return of the Puerto Rico hospital director is the latest example of Trump’s reform efforts encountering the entrenchment of what he has called Washington’s swamp, and comes in the same month a court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire the Phoenix hospital director, who is a convicted felon as a result of job-related misconduct.

“On the morning of January 20, 2017, the Department removed DeWayne Hamlin, the director of the VA Caribbean Healthcare System, from the federal civil service. Mr. Hamlin subsequently appealed his removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and because of particulars in his case that remains under active litigation, he was brought back to work at VA,” spokesman James Hutton told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“As we have underscored since January 20, President Trump and Secretary [David] Shulkin have made employee accountability at VA a top priority, and we will continue to take appropriate disciplinary actions with our employees. The Secretary in this case was not able to overturn this decision once he was made aware of it. We need this ability in new legislation.”

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Hamlin was returned to work at the VA despite the attempted firing of whistleblower Joseph Colon, who alerted officials that Hamlin was arrested for intoxicated driving and found with painkiller pills for which he didn’t have a prescription. Diversion of opiates from the VA system for recreational purposes is a major problem at the VA.

Worse, when a subordinate enraged him by refusing to carry out the wrongful firing, that subordinate, Rosayma Lopez, was offered $300,000 in taxpayer money to quit–which would have been the largest settlement in recent department history. Lopez refused to take the cash.

The incidents were just one of many serious problems at the Puerto Rico veterans hospital Hamlin led, including chronic absenteeism. But even after all of those incidents, former President Barack Obama’s VA Secretary Bob McDonald flew Hamlin to Washington to shape other managers in his image at a “Leaders Developing Leaders” seminar.

Hamlin was fired Jan. 20, the day of President Trump’s inauguration. But numerous employees of the Puerto Rico VA told TheDCNF they were shocked and disgusted to see him return to the facility this month.

VA lawyers were coy, writing on May 9 that “No, Mr. Hamlin is certainly not back on his job… we are waiting on a new hearing date from the judge at the moment.”

But pressed to explain the sightings, Hutton acknowledged he was “brought back to work at VA.” Hutton did not say what his job title is, but he is not listed as the hospital’s director.

Secretary Shulkin has increasingly faulted the MSPB for interpreting civil service rules in a way that blocks discipline of employees even when there is a slam-dunk case demonstrating severe misconduct.

He has pleaded for legislation making it easier for managers to deal with problem workers, but proposals have frequently stalled in the Senate under Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

Hutton told TheDCNF: “As this demonstrates, more needs to be done. VA will continue to work with Congress on priority legislation that will ensure the Department can appropriately manage its employees at all levels, to ensure accountability, especially in cases when employees are derelict in their duties or fail to care for Veterans.”

But Hutton did not respond to facts that suggest that less-than-aggressive efforts by top VA officials to fire employees, rather than the MSPB, may have a role in the return. Although the outside body does sometimes overturn discipline, it is up to VA managers to zealously build and prosecute cases.

In fact, the MSPB has not even ruled on Hamlin’s case. And the case for firing that the VA presented did not even include some of the worst and most easily provable of his conduct.

“I do not know why the charges do not include my detail, the bribe he committed when he offered me $305,000 to quit, and other things such as his DUI. I feel that the VA did this soft proposal removal so he could return to the VA,” Lopez wrote to VA lawyers, according to emails obtained by TheDCNF.

The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that is separate from the VA, has taken multiple years to determine whether Hamlin’s actions constitute whistleblower retaliation.

They have still not ruled, and it is possible that the VA intends to fire Hamlin again once they can cite an outside agency as evidence. But it is unclear why the agency has brought him back rather than fighting the existing MSPB battle as aggressively as possible.

VA managers have frequently seemed inclined to fold when faced with the prospect of unwieldy litigation brought by fired employees–who sometimes use a loophole to bill their personal lawyers to taxpayers.

Former Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson agreed to pay Japhet Rivera, a former Hamlin deputy, $85,000 to quit after he contested being fired by an Illinois hospital for rarely showing up to work, taunting an intern with the fact that he had sex with her mother–who was also an employee–and threatening to fire an employee who told on him. Thanks to the fact that the VA agreed to a settlement rather than fighting for a firing, Rivera is now undersecretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Health.

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  • msmispaidthugs

    There’s nothing worse than the treatment of our Vets! The past administrations have shown they could care less about the VA other than making money for the corrupt leadership! We The People HAVE to rise up and stand against all this! Our Vets deserve THE BEST from us!

  • Red Ryder

    Alligators in the swamp have teeth and can bite.

  • big KAhuna

    Total BS and Sessions must step in with his legal beagles and nip this in the bud.
    Throwing the leadership out from the last administration should be the prerogative of our current administration ( incompetence). This is clearly another attempt by the left to handicapp our president. Immediate legislation to reverse these actions is a must.

  • carpkiller


  • John Siemens

    Corrupt = illegal. Indict and convict for crimes. Then put the SOB in jail. What is wrong with the officials who have sworn to support the constitution and follow the law?

  • Irvan

    If that be the case, just CLOSE DOWN the VA Center. It is pretty good when a KNOWN FELIN can file a complaint and be kept on at the VA when he is KNOWN to be a crook.

  • halotx

    The only thing that will work is to completely sunset this entire department and stop this madness. It seems the VA is actually the deepest and most vile part of the SWAMP.

  • Irvan

    SHULKIN should be castrated, tarred, and feathered and ridden out of the country on a razor sharp rail!!!!

  • Robert Pekarik

    With the beyond corrupt political establishment that has rigged the system to favor them even bypassing and ignoring the law do we the people stand a chance to make our nation great again? The corrupt career politicians are proving, without a shadow of a doubt, that there are two systems in our country when it comes to justice. One for the corrupt Washington DC and their corrupt appointed judges and one for we the people in order for them to enslave us. The politicians that are now in office are there to protect themselves even if it means destroying our nation.

  • JBRoux

    I believe there is a “chain of evidence” that will expose all of the involved conspirators in this. Fire all involved.

  • Raceing1


  • Glennfriend67

    You bastards! How dare you allow this filth back in anywhere near our beloved vets, who fought and bled for this Nation! Mr. President, fire every last one of these cretins, and start over. Make sure you poke your fingers in the eyes of the Demoncrats as hard as you can. They need to get it through their thick heads that their reign of terror is OVER!!!!!!

  • paul filing

    Give the VA creep’s address to the local ISS cell. If the U.S. govt cant handle the problem they can.

  • Barbaree

    This is the obama mafia in action!


    Very sad state of affairs to say the very least! NOW! Who’s got the cajones to take these communist infiltrators down once and for all? Who’s willing to punish these criminals to the full extent of the law? I don’t believe DC would like for 200 million Patriotic American Citizens, armed to the friggin teeth to take matters into our own hands! They have one chance to get this right!

  • Joanne Libro-Martin

    WTF is going on here! What in hell kind of a country do we have?!?!?!? Congress better get off its ass and fix this immediately!

  • old codger

    Not a whole lot different than teachers unions!! If’n you got tenure it would take God Almighty to fire a teacher!

  • Julia Sanford

    True, Obama has no respect for the military or law enforcement. God performed a miracle when Trump was elected and I have to believe he will follow through and break through all these attempts to keep our president from fulfilling his promises to the
    American people.

  • rick meek


  • rick meek

    What about the other 6999……?

  • rick meek

    DEFUND and reorganize – Hire new people for a new org…..SAME with the 9th circuit and 4th…..