VA News


Ex-VA employees await hearings on harassment, wrongful termination claims

Update On Anti-Gay Harassment Escalates to Workplace Retaliation

Ex-VA employees await hearings on harassment, wrongful termination claims

By Angela Hill
Oakland Tribune

Posted: 09/12/2009 12:01:00 PM PDT
Updated: 09/12/2009 06:28:57 PM PDT

OAKLAND - Just a few days before she was fired in June 2008, Ann Williams of El Cerrito, a Navy veteran and former mayor of Pinole who is openly lesbian, was fed up with months of taunts and anti-gay comments from a male co-worker at the Oakland Regional Office of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Matters had reached the point where she feared for her safety, she said.

So she went to her superiors, complaining of anti-gay harassment and a hostile work environment. Another co-worker, Navy veteran Jamie Foxx, of Sebastopol, a straight woman, came forward as a witness. Less than a week afterward, both were fired on the same day, their termination letters citing poor performance during their training period despite the fact the two have documents showing they received positive reviews not long before. Convinced their dismissals were in retaliation for speaking up about what they viewed to be harassment, the women filed separate claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in San Francisco about a month after their termination. Both are awaiting hearings. Williams' case will be heard in November, and Fox's has not yet been scheduled. In the meantime, neither has been able to find work, Williams' car is about to be repossessed, and both say the emotional toll has been immeasurable.

"I never experienced anything like this in my life," Williams, 59, said during an interview in her home. "I'm in tears Advertisement all the time about this. We are professionals. We wanted to do something good and work with veterans. And this is how we were treated in the VA. We want (the VA) to be held accountable, and we want back pay and compensation."

"This was a career for me, with potential for advancement in the VA," Fox said. "I just spoke up on Ann's behalf on principle. I felt I did the right thing and that I was protected under EEOC rules, but apparently not." Officials at the Oakland VA office said they are prohibited by law from commenting on pending personnel cases or even confirming that such cases exist. "But what I can tell you is that the VA is fully committed to supporting a workplace free from all forms of discrimination," said Jim Brubaker, assistant director of the Oakland regional office. "We have a zero-tolerance policy. Our policy, VA-wide, is to examine, investigate and resolve any allegations of discrimination."

This artcle is copied in part, and the full story can be read at Inside Bay Area, The Oakland Tribune and can be found also at Contra Costa Times

On A Personal Note:

This is precisely the type of antagonistic and anti-gay mentality that is prevalent throughout the entire VA Regional Office and VA medical facilities
in Little Rock/North Little Rock, Arkansas.

Anti-Gay Harassment Escalates to Workplace Retaliation

by Roger Shuler
Mon Aug 10, 2009 at 09:34:19 AM PDT

Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

You often hear it said that America is plagued with too many lawsuits. These complaints usually come from "conservatives," who claim that undeserving plaintiffs file lawsuits that are unmeritorious or downright frivolous. But you rarely hear about the other side of the coin. How many lawsuits come from problems that businesses or institutions easily could have prevented, or solved, short of the courtroom? Such a case is unfolding now in California--although there is a Deep South connection to it. The case happens to be in the realm of employment law, and it raises this question: Just how stupid can employers be?

* Roger Shuler's diary :: ::


Two female employees fired from the Department of Veterans Affairs' Oakland Regional Center say their dismissals were in retaliation for their speaking up against anti-gay harassment and a hostile working environment. Writes the Bay Area Reporter:

The allegations range from coworkers sabotaging their performance records to threats of violence against one of the women who is an out lesbian and once served as mayor of the East Bay city of Pinole.

The former coworkers have both filed claims against the federal agency with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's San Francisco District Office. They are seeking reinstatement to comparable jobs within the VA's bureaucracy and back pay since the time of their firing last summer.

Lillian "Ann" Williams, 59, and Jamie Fox, 40, encountered problems almost immediately once they started working for the VA in November 2007. Williams, who is openly gay, and Fox, who is straight, were hired by the VA as veterans service representatives and tasked with reviewing disability claims filed by veterans. During their six months of training the two women said that a male coworker continuously harassed Williams and poisoned other people's opinion of her. Williams, who grew up in Columbus, Mississippi and served in the U.S. Navy, retains a Southern accent. That apparently helped spark her problems at the VA center:

Read the full article at Daily Kos

4th Veteran Tests Postive For HIV Linked To Procedure

The Veterans Administration has revealed that another patient has tested positive for HIV, bringing the total to four such cases among patients who got endoscope procedures at VA hospitals in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. The agency also said a new hepatitis case has been discovered, increasing the number of positive tests to 26. More than 4,270 veterans still have yet to get test results.

Read the full story at TODAYSTHV.COM

Military Veterans' Benefit Claims Records Wrongly Headed for VA Shredders

By Amanda Ruggeri Posted October 31, 2008

If military veterans applying for benefits either haven't gotten a reply from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or received a different response than expected, it could mean that evidence for their claim file wound up in the shredder. A nationwide review of the VA's 57 regional offices has found that 41 had records in their shredder bins that shouldn't have been there. In all, nearly 500 benefit claims records had been erroneously slated for destruction, including claims for compensation, notices of disagreement with a claim decision, and death certificates.

Read the full story at US

Bill To Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Earlier today, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) introduced legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and ensure that all qualified Americans can serve openly in the military regardless of sexual orientation. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act will replace the current law with new provisions prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. "This law has failed our country and our military for 15 years," Rep. Tauscher said in her announcement. "It harms military readiness and discriminates against patriotic young men and women who want to serve their country. It's time for Congress to right this wrong." Now that Rep. Tauscher's done her part, it's time for us to do ours. Help make sure the Military Readiness Enhancement Act passes through Congress and reaches the President's desk.

Write to your representative now and ask him or her to co-sponsor it:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act will replace the ban with a nondiscrimination policy that will make our military not just more fair, but more effective. Since "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was first imposed 15 years ago, over 12,500 service members have been discharged. It's estimated that every year 3,000 men and women who want to enlist or re-enlist decide not to because of this law. With a new commander-in-chief who supports lifting the ban, we've got a good shot at making it happen this year -- but we've got to get a law to his desk for his signature. The Military Readiness Enhancement Act is our opportunity to strike down a bad federal law. Help make the bill's chances of passage as strong as possible by urging your representative to become a co-sponsor today:

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

Thank you for your continued efforts in this campaign.


Aubrey Sarvis
Executive Director
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network

President's 2010 Budget Request Strongly Supports VA Programs

Funding Plan Improves Access, Modernizes Technology:

WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2009) – President Obama's first proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expands eligibility for health care to an additional 500,000 deserving Veterans over the next five years, meets the need for continued growth in programs for the combat Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and provides the resources to deliver quality health care for the Nation’s 5.5 million Veteran patients.

The 2010 budget request is a significant step toward realizing a vision shared by the President and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to transform VA into an organization that is people-centric, results-driven and forward-looking.

Read The Full Report At  Department of Veterans Affairs

I'm starting my campaign against Governor Mike Beebe and his political wolf pack early, the next election being held in 2010, Mike Beebe and the Lawmakers of Arkansas have already raised the price of a pack of cigaretts by 56 cents a pack, political opponents of Mike Beebe let this be one of your prime themes on the next campaign trail. Do you really want four more years upward spiral taxes and idiot laws, can you even afford another four years of Mike Beebe and his political Wolf Pack as your Governor and Lawmakers.


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