VA Official Admitted Employee Charged With Armed Robbery Still Employed

Veterans Psychiatric Care
VA Medical Center / AP
April 25, 2016

The Veterans Affairs undersecretary conceded Monday that he erred during a hearing Tuesday when he told lawmakers under oath that a department employee arrested for armed robbery no longer worked at the agency.

David Shulkin incorrectly testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee last Tuesday that VA employee Elizabeth Riviera was fired after spending the night in jail on aggravated robbery charges.

Shulkin corrected his claim in a statement Monday, acknowledging that Riviera was reinstated to her position after receiving a misdemeanor and probation charge "only" for allegedly acting as the driver during a 3 a.m. armed robbery.

"The employee was not convicted of armed robbery and was subsequently returned to work as a clerk at VACHS following administrative processes and court approval," Shulkin wrote. "There was never any indication that the employee posed a risk to Veterans or VA property."

The Daily Caller first reported in March that Riviera, an employee at the VA in Puerto Rico, was reinstated to her job following her criminal conviction because of union backing.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R, Kan.) asked Shulkin about the account during a hearing last week.

"What I understand is the VA in Puerto Rico refused to fire a medical center employee who was convicted of crime related to armed robbery and in comments to the media, a VA spokesman apparently suggested it was OK for employees to participate as long as it is in their free time," Huelskamp said.

Shulkin hedged his response, telling Huelskamp, "Congressman, I am aware of that situation and it is my understanding, and I am very careful I want to give you accurate information so if I misspeak on this I will commit I will get back to you at the end of the day, but it is my understanding that that person is not currently working at the VA in San Juan…they are not an employee at the VA."

Rep. Jeff Miller (R, Fla.), who chairs the House Veteran Affairs Committee, returned to Shuklin’s testimony at the end of the hearing and confirmed with the Caribbean Healthcare System that Riviera was still on the VA’s payroll, according to the Daily Caller.

"Why in the world would someone who has been convicted of armed robbery still be working at Veterans Affairs?" Miller asked.

"OK. Well, hard for me to answer that right now, so, I think we owe you an answer," Shulkin replied.

Sulking corrected his statement in a letter posted to the VA's website Monday, writing that the agency does still employ Riviera despite her arrest.

"As is true in private-sector employment, a federal employee generally cannot be terminated for off-duty misconduct unless there is a clear connection between the misconduct and the individual’s employment," he wrote.

Published under: Veterans Affairs