VA fires D.C. hospital director for the second time this year

The director of a VA hospital in the District of Columbia has been fired for the second time this year, with the department using new authority included in recently signed law. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs removed Brian Hawkins for "his failure to provide leadership" at the D.C. Medical Center, the agency announced. Hawkins was originally fired in July but reinstated as the Merit Systems Protection Board reviewed the firing. 

VA Secretary David Shulkin was able to fire Hawkins a second time thanks to the VA Accountability Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in June and includes new firing rules aimed at cleaning up corruption in the VA more quickly.

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“We at VA will use the authorities available to ensure our Veterans get the highest quality service and care possible,” Shulkin said in the announcement. “This is the right decision for Veterans in D.C., and employees at the medical center, and underscores our commitment to hold employees accountable if they fail to do their jobs or live up to VA’s values.”

Hawkins was notified of the second firing in August, according to the announcement. The decision was made after a VA Office of Inspector General investigation found that he sent sensitive VA information from his work email account to private accounts. 

He was initially removed from his position after the OIG warned that patients were put in "unnecessary risk."

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Dan Caldwell, policy director for Concerned Veterans for America, said in a statement that Hawkins' firing demonstrates the "positive impacts" of the Accountability Act on the VA. 

"Fixing the toxic culture that exists within the VA will require accountability, and today’s decision shows that the VA is able to hold employees responsible for their actions," Caldwell said.