The Wilmington facility declines to publicly discuss Washington’s situation, citing employee privacy rights.
The union’s national secretary-treasurer wants a face-to-face discussion with Shinseki.
“This type of retaliation is highly illegal, extremely disrespectful to the congressional hearing process, and threatening to the VA’s ability to identify deficiencies in services it provides to veterans,” Cox wrote in a July 26 letter. “AFGE is calling upon you to take prompt action to fix this situation and to make Dr. Washington whole in terms of her job duties, job title, and performance ratings.”
At the time of her congressional testimony, Washington was the medical center’s post-traumatic stress disorder coordinator. In response to an earlier query, the facility’s public affairs officer, Charlie Quesenberry, said Washington remains in that job, which he called “vital” to the treatment of veterans with mental health issues.
Ward Morrow, the union’s attorney, said he had not seen written evidence that was the case with Washington.
“We haven’t gotten any response,” Morrow said. “This has been going on too long. We need to get a resolution this week.”
AFGE also says other union members at the Wilmington VA Medical Center have faced adverse personnel actions “as part of what appears to be a coordinated pattern of retaliation for bringing to light mismanagement at the VA.”
The VA would not address whether the letter had been received or whether Shinseki was aware of the union’s concerns. But spokesman Mark Ballesteros said in a statement that the VA “is strongly committed to ensuring that VA employees are empowered to advocate for veterans without fear of retaliation.
“VA does not tolerate retaliation and reprisal against any employees and strongly enforces these protections afforded by the Whistleblower Protection Act,” Ballesteros said.
“VA respects the congressional hearing process and cooperates fully when VA employees are asked to testify,” he said.
Another possible avenue for settling the matter is arbitration, which the union has sought. Morrow said he expects an arbitrator to be named this week.