The Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday it has been forced to rehire the former director of the VA Medical Center in Washington D.C. who was fired in July after an internal investigation.
The department said the federal Merit Systems Protection Board on Aug. 2 ordered a stay of the VA’s firing of Brian Hawkins, who argued he was wrongly terminated.
Hawkins has returned to the payroll, but now holds an administrative position at the VA headquarters rather than a patient-care position at the VA Medical Center, the department said.
David Shulkin, the secretary of the VA, released a defiant statement, saying he won’t allow Hawkins to work around patients.
“No judge who has never run a hospital and never cared for our nation’s veterans will force me to put an employee back in a position when he allowed the facility to pose potential safety risks to our Veterans,” Shulkin said. “Protecting our veterans is my most important responsibility.”
The statement from the VA said the department would explore its next steps “armed with the new authorities recently provided by the VA Accountability Act signed into law by President Trump in June.”
In a statement in July, the VA said Hawkins had been fired July 28 because he “failed to provide effective leadership at the medical center” after an internal investigation revealed he sent sensitive information about the hospital to his wife's personal email account.
Hawkins had been reassigned to administrative duty in April after the VA's inspector general published a scathing report that detailed unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the hospital, including 18 of 25 sterile storage areas for syringes that were found dirty.
The report also noted that approximately $150 million worth of medical supplies had not been inventoried, leading to equipment shortages. In at least one instance earlier this year, the medical center ran out of bloodlines for dialysis patients and was only able to provide dialysis services because staff members borrowed bloodlines from a private hospital.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.