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By Jonah Bennett
Judges have so far faced no discipline more than a year after getting caught hosting a “Forum of Hate” listserv at the Department of Veterans Affairs that, among other things, called veterans “shit,” black people “niggers,” and then-VA Director Eric Shinseki an undisclosed racist slur for Asians.
Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) administrative law judges (ALJs), attorneys and managers were busted in late 2015 for what members called the “Forum of Hate” (FOH). The forum directed comical and shockingly offensive rhetoric towards upper management, who they believed were focused on procuring bonuses for themselves, as well as rank and file employees, who they regarded as little more than low-quality affirmative action hires.
“Everything is shit. We are shit. The union is shit. The front office is shit. We work for shit in the service of shit and at the end of the day we attempt to clan [sic] the shit of of us with a liquid shit-shower. Nothing matters except that the front office fuck gets paid a Tier 1 bonus,” wrote a member of the group March 31, 2014, comparing veterans to excrement.
The judges are in charge of impartially weighing whether veterans should get disability compensation. The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group obtained a draft inspector general report on the email group, which had existed in one form or another since 2007. Employees’ names were redacted.
Here are some of the most inflammatory things BVA employees discussed on the email list, using their government accounts while on the clock.
Members speculated that an obese black female employee they nicknamed G-POT — because they said she looked like a hippopotamus and acted like a rapper — would soon get the top job at the BVA. The words, “Fat twat shouldn’t manage a KFC for God’s sake,” were found in the email.
They described in great detail the sounds that would be overheard if chicken wings were stapled to the ceiling, which they said would be the only way to get her to work hard. The emails also referenced the Klu Klux Klan and lynching and said “n—-rs just gotta nig.”
In one email chain from Aug. 28, 2013, one member published a photo of four people receiving an award from a former BVA chairman. The award text was digitally altered to read: “Guess I didn’t kill all the gooks in Vietnam cuz you’re here. You’re fired!”
An email thread from Nov. 4, 2014, shows an advertisement with a woman about to eat a sandwich.
“Datz right, girl attorney: just pretend itz a big thick hot meaty [front office] sandwich with au jus sauce and when you’re done swallowing it you’ll get a [redacted] or a GS-15 promotion.”
Another email as recent as April 1, 2015, read: “So what’s the report on this suckhole event? Did lots of ambitious tools get the architecture of their throats and rectums ‘built out’ by the schlongs of management?”
The inspector general draft report noted that while the VA allows for some personal use of government office equipment for personal needs, that personal use must be non-work time, and additionally, VA policy “prohibits its use for activities that are illegal, inappropriate, or offensive to fellow employees or the public, to include hate speech, or material that ridicules others on the basis of race, creed, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or sexual orientation.”
The VA put out a statement March 1, 2016 — without disclosing details about the emails or the employees’ names — saying it found a “pattern of inappropriate emails that were racist and sexist in tone” and that “accountability actions against the Board judges have been referred to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which has direct jurisdiction over cases concerning administrative law judges.”
After obtaining some of the actual emails this month, TheDCNF followed up and found that more than a year later, nothing had come of those complaints. Spokesman Randal Noller said “in August and September of 2016, the MSPB conducted hearings on the Department’s recommendations. Those proceedings are still pending with the MSPB.”
The languishing occurred despite the high-level status of the judges and the fact that all the necessary evidence exists in writing on government servers — the kind of case that is hard for employees to dispute. Managers also didn’t manage to secure swift discipline, even though the forum referred to the top manager, Shinseki, who is Asian, as a racial slur.
Congress has repeatedly said that the MSPB makes it slow and difficult to fire employees and overturns disciplinary actions that are obviously deserved. The American Federation of Government Employees union opposed it, arguing that firing so many VA employees would be racist since a large number are minorities — an ironic line of defense, since the same process protected employees using extensive anti-black language on the job.
VA leadership under former President Barack Obama initially resisted Congressional efforts to reduce MSPB’s role, but after three high-profile executives busted for egregious conduct all successfully appealed their demotions to the MSPB, it began warming to the idea.
The reason the VA hasn’t been able to do anything about the judges, is because MSPB currently still has the case, VA spokesman Randal Noller told TheDCNF
“VA cannot execute any action against the judges unless and until MSPB determines such action is warranted, and MSPB has not yet issued its decisions in those cases,” Noller said. “When the MSPB has the case, it is out of VA’s hands until a decision is rendered.”
One of the attorneys involved in FOH retired and another has resigned.