U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
America’s Veterans Under Siege by Feds
By Tanya Ward Jordan
President Obama stated in last year’s Veteran’s Day proclamation — “As a nation, we must ensure that every veteran has the chance to share in the opportunity he or she helped to defend.” Despite the President’s impassioned pronouncement, far too many of our returning military combat employment discrimination when seeking federal-government jobs. Moreover, many Black and extremely qualified veterans, who unearth a coveted federal position, face incessant racial abuse, harassment and retaliation.
A NBC news article reported that veterans face job bias and the “federal government is the biggest offender.” Despite the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights (USERRA) Act, federal officials continue to discriminate against our returning service men and women. Disturbingly, military service-connected discrimination exists. Many of America’s sons and daughters, who have rendered the highest service any American can offer, encounter reprisal daily in the federal workplace. However, Black veterans are more likely to confront “race” discrimination in addition to service-connected bias.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report discloses at (Table 7) that “Black/African Americans” leads the “bases” in “race“ complaints filed. The following nine (9) troubling accounts disclose some of the many challenges African-American veterans encounter in federal agencies after returning stateside to use their talents to power America’s economic engine.
Karl McDonald, a Marine Corps veteran, served in Iraq, Desert Storm and Operation Provide Comfort. For over 14 years, he worked as a contractor shift supervisor security until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) terminated him after he filed an EEO complaint. McDonald reported how NRC’s contracting officer’s technical representative –GARY SIMPLER–engaged in racial harassment and made racial remarks about African Americans. Simpler is reported as saying the following to Black contract guards: “You guys should be used to dust dirt being from Africa. What’s up homie? Why you wearing those gold chains like P. Diddy? If you fu©k with me I’ll come after you with everything I got. I will crush your windpipe, cutoff your neck and $hit down your throat.” U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski requested an investigation into McDonald’s claims, which spurred the NRC’s Office of Inspector General investigation (OIG). The OIG found that inappropriate comments had been made to McDonald and other NRC minority contract security guards. McDonald has a pending lawsuit against Gary Simpler in U.S. District Court.
Edgar D. Lee, a Gulf War Veteran, retired from the U.S. Department of Commerce after filing a discrimination complaint and after Commerce officials exposed him to “airborne asbestos.” Mr. Lee, settled his complaint against Commerce and took disability retirement. He says he retired after the agency refused him reasonable accommodations. See Office of Special Counsel letters to President Obama.
Felicia Townsend Murphy, now deceased, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1982 to 2004. She died after a routine procedure at the Department of Army’s Brooke Medical Center. According to veteran Louis Murphy, “the Department used his late wife as a guinea pig to train military residents and did not value the life of an African American woman, who served her country.” Louis says, a Edward Robert Kost was named in the wrongful medical death complaint of his deceased wife and that the Army engaged in negligence, abuse, and cover-up. According to Louis Murphy, the Department of Army settled the case; however, Army officials failed to do a complete investigation as promised.
Ralph Saunders, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is a former employee with the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) New Orleans Medical Center. Saunders says, VA personnel destroyed his medical documents, placed him on Absent Without Leave, and subjected him to endless reprisal after he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint against a manager who had denied him requested time off from work to accommodate his wife’s heart-surgery operation. EEOC records reflect that Saunders prevailed in his discrimination complaint (Saunders v Shinseki, Case Number 200L-0629-2004-100828). In 2005, The EEOC found managers (Cassandra Holiday, Jeanette Butler, and Linda Cosey) guilty of “abusing the rules” and “retaliating against Saunders for his protected EEO activity.” Now, ten years later, Saunders says “after being strong-armed out his federal position, he must challenge the VA on a settlement breach.”
Isaac Decatur, a U.S. Navy veteran, served at VA for eighteen years until federal officials fired him after he filed an EEO complaint. VA denied Mr. Decatur annual leave, subjected him to reprisal and put him on a “blacklist” that targeted him for removal of federal service. Eventually, the EEOC found VA managers guilty of discriminating against veteran Decatur. When Mr. Decatur wrote to President Obama to request an answer as to why the managers (Jeanette Butler, Larry Thomas and Maurice Troop) were never disciplined, the EEOC replied in a letter to Mr. Decatur: “The matters you are concerned with are preventative in nature. While EEOC orders agencies to consider; we have no authority to issue discipline.” (Decatur v Shinseki, 0120073404.)
Sanita Simons, a U.S. Air Force veteran, resigned under duress she encountered at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). She had worked in Food Safety and Inspection Service’s (FSIS) Employee Relations Division managing administrative grievances. Ms. Simons, who has pending complaints against the USDA, says her troubles began when her newly appointed supervisor Philip Brown inappropriately inquired and, for no apparent reason, about her service-connected disability. She asserts FSIS officials unlawfully changed her career appointment to a “term” appointment and then threatened to terminate her.
Dennis Turner, a military veteran, served as a Correctional/Youth/Clinical Security Officer at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) until he retired in 2008. Before retiring with 26 years of federal service, Turner filed a class-action complaint against BOP alleging widespread retaliation and race discrimination. The EEOC certified the class complaint in September 2010. Dennis Turner et. al vs Michael Mukasey Case EEOC 541-2008-00255X. The EEOC’s November 2010 evaluation disclosed that the BOP had an “unusually large number of complaints alleging retaliation.
Gregory Richardson, a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy (Retired), says Customs Border Patrol (CBP) fired him from federal service on March 8, 2014, and failed to comply with 38 USC 4312, which covers reemployment rights of persons who serve in the uniformed services. The highly decorated officer, whose heroic actions led to the capture of terrorists, says he has been a victim of reprisal since filing an earlier EEO complaint against James F. Tomsheck, CBP’s former head of internal affairs. Presently, Richardson says he has been forced into five separate legal actions and burdened with thousands of dollars in debt all because CBP officials engaged in racially discriminatory actions against him and repeatedly ignored his status as a disabled veteran. Open Case(s): OSC DP-13-0024; Merit Systems Protection Board (DC-4324-13-0472-I-1) and EEOC (HS-CBP-00135-2013).
Richardson, who blew the whistle on CBP violations of Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), says the watchdog agencies like Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is burying whistleblower complaints. “They put whistleblowers in a spin cycle,” says Richardson, “I reported claims of CBP abuse including the agency’s failure to reasonably accommodate me for a service connected injury in 2012. The OSC assigned my claims a complaint number in 2013 and then in April 2015 the OSC reissued my same claims under a new case number. Veteran Richardson, that he was getting a bit closer to the proverbial front line when OSC changed his case number. According to Richardson, assigning him a new case number for a case filed years ago has the impact of sending him to the back of the line.
Jeff Atkins, a U.S. Army veteran, once served as a counselor at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) before the agency terminated him. According to Mr. Atkins, despite going through proper management channels and seeking aid from union officials, BOP’s Warden John Owen failed to provide him reasonable accommodation for a service-connected knee injury. (See email from union representative.) Atkins, who has been instrumental in representing employees in cases against the BOP, says the government is “blackballing” him. He reported how his 10 points veteran’s preference was not reflected on a job for which he applied and qualified. He says, when he inquired about the omission with the Office of Personnel Management — the position was shortly cancelled.
These brave men and women of our military have dedicated their abilities and put their very lives on the line to defend the freedoms that all Americans enjoy. Their accounts reflect that America needs to do a better job at supporting our returning military. Qualified men and women, of all races who fight for our country, should never have to return stateside only to fight for federal jobs.Veterans Under Siege
Merit Systems Protection Board: Retaliation From Within
The agency that’s supposed to protect whistleblowers across the government got slapped for retaliating against one of its own. –The Washington Post, Lisa Rein, October 2, 2015.Washington Post
Veterans: The brave men and women of our military have dedicated their abilities, and even their very lives, to defending the freedoms that all Americans enjoy. However, when seeking a civilian job, too many of our returning military must combat employment discrimination. The documents below provide highlights of egregious action some African American veterans had to endure.
Evidence Dennis Turner —http://coalition4change.org/EEOC%20Report%20on%20BOP.pdf
Support Jeff Atkins