VA Rehired Employee Involved in Fatal Accident

The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is demanding to know why the Department of Veterans Affairs re-hired an employee involved in a 2010 motor vehicle accident that left another employee dead.

Though police in Addison, Texas concluded that Jed Fillingim's alcohol level was below the legal level for drunk driving, a U.S. Government Services Administration Inspector General's report later determined that Fillingim's use of the vehicle was outside VA guidelines, "including driving ... intoxicated."

Fillingim's return to the VA was first reported Tuesday by NBC News in Washington. Previously a financial manager with the Jacksonville, Miss., VA Medical Center, NBC said he now holds a "high-level managerial position in Augusta, Ga., earning more than $100,000 per year."

The VA, in a statement to Military.com on Tuesday, said privacy laws bar it from providing details on personnel issues, including specifics on the re-hiring of Fillingim.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.., who chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said "every American veteran and taxpayer should be outraged" at Fillingim's re-hiring.

"But what's even more troubling is that VA officials went out of their way to provide someone who was linked to the death of a fellow VA employee with a six figure job," he told Military.com.

Miller reportedly is still waiting for the VA's records on Fillingim, which he first asked for in December. He told said the VA has refused to explain the situation.   Miller has frequently clashed with the VA over what he says is its failure to discipline or fire employees who violate rules and policies.

"I'm left wondering just what it will take for department leaders to realize the obvious truth that VA is failing when it comes to holding employees and executives accountable," he said.

According to the report, Fillingim resigned in November 2010, five months after the accident near Dallas, and was rehired in March 2011.

Killed in the June 2, 2010 accident was Amy Wheat -- like Fillingim a VA employee from Mississippi. Police determined she accidentally fell from the truck, suffering severe head injuries and a severed leg. A third VA employee, Chad Barney, was arrested for public intoxication.

Since Fillingim's blood-alcohol level was within legal limits he was not charged. NBC reports that the test was administered six hours after the accident, which occurred after a night of drinking at a club. The three were in Texas to attend a conference in Dallas, according to NBC.

In March 2011, about five months after he resigned from his VA job, he was rehired.

Though the VA cannot legally provide specifics about Fillingim, it did detail the process by which any job applicant, new or returning, would use.

Under the process, Fillingim would have applied for a posted position by applying for a position, been ranked on qualifications and placed on a certificate of eligibles.

That certificate would be issued to a Veterans Health Administration selection official who, according to VA, "with sole regard to merit and fitness for the position, determines the best qualified candidate for appointment and makes a selection from the certificate of eligibles."

When asked if the GSA Inspector General's findings should have been a factor when determining Fillingim's "merit and fitness" for the job, a VA official speaking on background again invoked privacy laws.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reach at bryant.jordan@monster.com

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