Close call: VA worker reinstated with back pay after missing time due to being in prison for armed robbery

posted at 6:21 pm on March 22, 2016 by Jazz Shaw

The VA is a place where people tend to somehow magically fail upward. By that I simply mean that workers at all levels can be caught up in any sort of malfeasance or incompetence and not only retain their jobs, but apparently profit from their actions. We’ve told you the story of the executive who ran her department into the ground and was punished with a plush gig in the Philippines. Then there was the Albany, New York administrator who was found to have drugs addicts on staff who were stealing the medication of the veterans and was fired, but somehow got her job back at full pay. And, of course, who could forget the Arizona VA chiefs who cooked up the scheme to keep veterans on phony waiting lists where some of them literally died without seeing a doctor, but will keep their positions with full pay and benefits for as much as two more years. But today we may finally have the story which tilts the pinball machine once and for all.

This one takes place down in Puerto Rico where one diligent VA worker found herself unable to report to work for an extended period of time. She was held up, you see, by an inconvenient inability to get a pass out of prison to make it into the office. (Daily Caller)

When veterans at the Puerto Rico VA hospital come to the social work department seeking counseling and guidance, the secretary greeting them, Elizabeth Rivera Rivera, will be wearing a GPS monitor ankle bracelet, a condition of her probation.

Rivera was driving around Puerto Rico in the middle of the night on a Monday with Rolando Rio Febus and robbed a couple at gunpoint. Rivera was charged with armed robbery and her companion with armed robbery and gun charges.

Rebus’ bail was set at $2 million due to multiple previous arrests on gun charges. Bail for Rivera was set at $100,000, which she could not pay, leaving her to miss work while she sat in jail.

Well, that’s understandable at least. I mean, who among us hasn’t been out for a bit of late night carousing with our friends and somehow wound up holding somebody up at gunpoint. Hey… it happens. If I only had a nickel for every time…

But seriously, now. We rejoin our story after Ms. Rivera has gotten out of the slammer only to find that she’s been fired from her job. I know, right? I was shocked also. Some employers can be so unreasonable. But not to worry… she took her case to their union reps for resolution. You get three guesses as to what happened and the first two don’t count.

A Department of Veterans Affairs employee in Puerto Rico was fired after being arrested for armed robbery, but her union quickly got her reinstated — despite a guilty plea — by pointing out that management’s labor relations negotiator is a registered sex offender, and the hospital’s director was once arrested and found with painkiller drugs…

Employees said the union demanded her job back and pointed out that Tito Santiago Martinez, the management-side labor relations specialist in Puerto Rico, who is in charge of dealing with the union and employee discipline, is a convicted sex offender. Martinez reportedly disclosed his conviction to the hospital and VA hired him anyway, reasoning that “there’s no children in [the hospital], so they figure I could not harm anyone here.”

The union’s position — that another employee committed a crime and got away with it, so this one should, too — has been upheld by the highest civil service rules arbiters, and has created a vicious Catch-22 where the department’s prior indefensible inaction against bad employees has handcuffed it from taking action now against other scofflaws.

The union defense is brilliant here. A previous employee was also convicted of serious charges and is still employed, so it would be grossly unfair to fire anyone else who is similarly sent to jail. It’s perfect, really. At this point one of the VA workers could literally shoot someone in the parking lot and still get their job back as soon as they get home from prison. It’s just baked into the cake.

You are all now invited to smash the screens on your computers. You deserve a new one anyway. And hey… maybe we can get the VA to pay for it. (With your tax dollars, of course.)


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