You Have Employment Rights
As a federal health care employee (e.g. doctor, nurse, dentist, etc.) with the Veteran’s Administration (VA) you are entitled to certain rights and privileges related to your continued employment and retirement. In general, you cannot be subject to disciplinary action except for “just and sufficient cause” properly directed against you by the VA. Your rights depend upon how long you have worked in the VA Health Care System. For example, employees with less than two years of work experience and still in a probationary phase, have fewer rights compared to longer tenured employees.
The VA Health Care system is under a great deal of financial and political scrutiny and, as a result, many employees risk losing their jobs. You should not passively allow the VA to discipline or terminate you without asserting your rights. Unlike private sector employees, VA employees are protected by layers of procedure that must be followed by the agency in order to proceed with an adverse action against an employee. It is crucial for you to seek competent legal representation, in that not only is your employment at stake, but VA actions can have negative effects upon on your professional license(s).
Your rights and the procedures related to adverse action against your employment are detailed in the various VA Handbooks. The rules and regulations in the VA Handbooks have broad impacts that determine when, how and if a healthcare employee is subject to discipline, and the process for appealing discipline or termination.
You should be aware that you have the right to private legal representation by counsel retained by you to assist you in preparation for, or/and at, any hearing (proceeding) before a board assembled to take action against your employment status. These boards are often called Disciplinary Boards or Professional Standards Boards.
In most instances, the VA may terminate an employee because his/her “work performance or conduct fails to demonstrate fitness or qualifications for continued employment.” Employment can be terminated by notifying an employee in writing as to why he/she is being separated and the effective date of the action. The information in the notice as to why an employee is being terminated must, at a minimum, consist of the conclusions as to the inadequacies of his/her performance or conduct.
You should hire a professional licensing attorney who is familiar with all of the various VA Handbooks as these handbooks are complex and contain many complicated subsections. For example, VA Handbook 5021/6 covers the policy regarding Title Five (5) probationary/trial period employees covered under adverse action procedures.
There are numerous sections in these handbooks which health care professionals must be aware of, and a good attorney experienced in VA employment matters will know how to utilize these sections to protect your employment rights. Chapman Law Group’s attorneys understand the VA Handbooks and are aware of all the important supplementary materials as well.
If you believe your employment and your professional license are in jeopardy, or if you have any questions, you should contact a professional licensing attorney. VA Health Care providers facing employment issues are invited to contact the Chapman Law Group to discuss how their defense to VA’s actions could affect their licenses and livelihood.
If you are sanctioned by the VA, in most instances, the VA is required to report this action to the state licensing board and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Both of these reports can seriously impact your ability to find work in your chosen profession. However, you almost always have the right to appeal before a final report is sent to either of these organizations.
Depending upon your union contract (e.g. MD/DO, R.N.) you have the right to appeal adverse actions taken against your employment by notifying a Disciplinary Appeals Board (DAB) or similar board. Trial period employees may appeal the decision to terminate them for unsatisfactory performance or conduct in writing to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Grievance procedures differ depending upon the reason(s) involved and are governed by different sections of the US Code: e.g. unsatisfactory performance (5 USC 4303), adverse actions/improper procedure (5 USC 7512), and discrimination (5 USC 2302(b)(1). These grievances have time limits so time is of the essence, and failure to respond in a timely manner can result in loss of your rights. Adverse actions based on discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disabling conditions are handled by the Office of Resolution Management (ORM). The Chapman Law Group has handled appeals for all of the above-mentioned reasons.
It is important for you to fight the VA’s adverse action against your employment in order to protect your professional license and future employment prospects. You are encouraged to contact the Chapman Law Group to discuss the numerous alternatives you have besides simply accepting the discipline, termination or limitations placed on your retirement benefits.
Implications for Your Professional License
It is the policy of VA to report to state licensing boards those licensed health care professionals, whether currently employed or separated, voluntarily or otherwise, whose clinical practice during VA employment failed to meet generally accepted standards of clinical practice as to raise reasonable concern for the safety of patients. In the event you are found to not meet standards of care, consideration will be given whether, under these criteria, you should be reported to the appropriate state licensing board(s).
Should your discipline from the VA result in a report to the state licensing board, Chapman Law Group is well-prepared to respond to the letter of investigation which you will receive as a result of this action. The Chapman Law Group is dedicated to defending licenses and livelihood of all health care professionals including Doctors, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses and Medical Assistants.