- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Department of Veterans Affairs officials are standing by removal of their Albany medical center’s director despite an oversight board’s ruling that terminating her was too severe a punishment.

Merit Systems Protection Board Administrative Law Judge Arthur Joseph two weeks ago ordered Linda Weiss’ removal cancelled.

Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson called that ruling unprecedented, saying he replaced Weiss at the Stratton VA Medical Center in mid-January for failing to promptly ensure patients get safe medical care.

“In my judgment, a medical center director who fails to proactively address patient safety concerns or fails to be an advocate for vulnerable veteran patients has no place in the VA,” Gibson said.

This week, Joseph issued his 30-page ruling. He found Weiss failed to reassign a nursing assistant promptly following a detailed report last March that she was impatient, spoke sharply and handled patients roughly, though Weiss started the process for transferring the aide to a job as a supply technician.

Joseph also noted complaints about the aide going back to 2011, noting that a nursing director had then recommended the aide’s removal, though Weiss didn’t sustain the charge that the aide physically abused a patient by roughly shoving food in his mouth.

Joseph concluded there were also mitigating circumstances, that the threat to patients wasn’t dire in the four months it took to transfer the aide and that Weiss had 42 years of positive VA service.

Gibson issued another statement in response to the detailed ruling, calling it untimely and “unenforceable under the law.”

House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller criticized the board ruling, saying no business could operate effectively if many of its major personnel decisions “were subject to approval by an unaccountable board with a strong bias against accountability.” Negotiations are continuing for legislation to change the system, he said.

Weiss had said her VA hospital was trying to be a model for others around the nation.

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