VA Rehires Employee Involved in Drunk Driving Tragedy for $100K Job

By Eric Katz

April 1, 2014

A Veterans Affairs Department employee who was driving a government truck after a night of drinking when a co-worker fell out of the vehicle and died was re-hired at the agency after initially resigning, according to a report.

Jed Fillingim was on official travel to Dallas with two colleagues for a conference for federal employees when the incident occurred, reported WRC-TV, the Washington, D.C.-based NBC affiliate. All three workers had been drinking and while they were driving from a bar, Amy Wheat -- a VA employee based in Mississippi -- fell out of the truck and died.

Wheat suffered head injuries and a severed leg in fall, WRC-TV found in police reports. Fillingim, who was driving the truck, was arrested immediately following the incident on suspicion of “intoxication manslaughter,” but was not charged with any crime after police found his blood-alcohol content was at 0.03 -- below the legal limit. The test was administered nearly six hours after the incident, however, and 12 hours after Fillingim said he entered the bar.

Fillingim and Chad Barney, the third VA employee in the truck, purchased more than a dozen drinks on their credit cards at the bar, including jaeger bombs, beer and vodka.

Fillingim resigned from his position as VA’s Jackson, Miss., medical center manager in November 2010, five months after the incident. VA rehired him in a supervisory position in Augusta, Ga., in March 2011, however, and he is making more than $100,000 per year.

The department confirmed to Government Executive Fillingim is employed by VA, but said it could not get into further details due to privacy concerns. A spokesman said when hiring someone in Fillingim’s position, a Veterans Health Administration selecting official determines the best qualified candidate “with sole regard to merit and fitness for the position.”

Fillingim’s re-hiring occurred after a General Services Administration inspector general report found he and Barney had operated the government vehicle “outside policy guidelines, including driving (a vehicle) intoxicated,” according WRC.

The report was not originally released, and only obtained by the NBC affiliate through a Freedom of Information Act request. The full document spells out details of the day of the incident, but many names and locations are redacted. The report shows two individuals purchased 14 beers, 12 jaeger bombs and two vodka drinks. One individual was “acting inappropriately toward female patrons and staff” and was asked to leave.

After leaving the bar, the three went to a gas station and then Hooters, before Wheat’s death.

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., is looking into the incident. 

(Image via Concept Photo/Shutterstock.com)


By Eric Katz

April 1, 2014

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2014/04/va-rehires-employee-involved-drunk-driving-tragedy-100k-job/81721/